Mon. Dec 6th, 2021

A revised election between left-wing and far-right leaders is expected, but not a given.

Antofagasta, Chile – Voting has begun in Chile for a new president in a critical election that will determine governance during a post-crisis transition period.

Votes open at 08:00 (11:00 GMT) and are scheduled to close Sunday at 18:00 (21:00 GMT).

Seven presidential candidates are on the ballot paper. Results are expected later Sunday and the winner will be in power for a referendum on a new constitution currently being written by elected civic representatives.

The constitutional convention was a concession to mass protests against structural inequality during an explosion of social unrest that began two years ago.

Gabriel Boric, a 35-year-old congressman and former student movement leader, represents the left-wing Apruebo Dignidad coalition, while Jose Antonio Kast, a 55-year-old lawyer and former congressman, is the far-right candidate of the Christian. Social Front Coalition.

Sebastian Sichel, a former official in outgoing President Sebastian Pinera’s administration of the center-right ruling alliance, and Yasna Provoste, a senator representing center-left parties, who followed Boric and Kast by a considerable margin down the field with three other candidates.

No candidate is expected to get an absolute majority. The top two contenders will tackle each other in a December 19 match.

The elected president will take office on March 11, 2022, for a term of four years.

“There is going to be a need to support this transition and this new constitution,” said Federica Sanchez Staniak, a professor of political science at the Alberto Hurtado University in Santiago and a member of the Red de Politologas network of women politicians. scientists.

Voters also elect 155 members of the lower house of Congress for terms of four years, 27 of 50 senators and regional council representatives.

Voting in Chile started today at 8:00 local time (11:00 GMT) [Pablo Sanhueza/Reuters]

Streets in front of local schools used as polling stations were closed to traffic, but few people voted within the first hour of voting.

Many people have chosen to wait, because if a volunteer registered to staff a polling station does not show up, the first voter is obliged to take their place for the day and only seniors can withdraw.

Gloria Alliu, 57, co-owner of a bakery, plans to vote later in the day, but she is still not 100 percent sure which presidential candidate she will choose.

“A lot of people are indecisive,” Alliu told Al Jazeera. “There is not one candidate who includes all my interests.”

Alliu said equality, poverty, employment and human rights are all important to her and she will discuss with others today to make her decision.

“No one is really sure what the results are going to be,” Sanchez Staniak said. “It is very difficult to predict.”

A December rift between Boric and Kast seems the most likely outcome, but there is always the possibility of a surprise, Sanchez Staniak said.

Opinion polls are under scrutiny and Kast performed poorly in the last debate, she noted.

“I think that turnout will most likely be average,” Sanchez Staniak added, predicting that the turnout will be between 43 and 48 percent as it has been in the last two first-round presidential elections, since compulsory voting was eliminated.

“The general behavior of Chilean voters is not coming out.”

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