Chileans vote to draft new constitution in 155-member assembly Latin America News

Chileans are voting in the second day of elections on Sunday to elect 155 members of the Constituent Assembly, which sparked deadly protests in 1999 to rewrite the country’s dictatorship-era constitution to address deep-seated social inequality.

As many as 14 million people will be able to vote this weekend, Chile’s most important election since returning to democracy 31 years ago.

More than 30 million people, or about 20.4 percent of voters, cast their ballots on Saturday, according to the country’s electoral service.

“I hope we have a constitution that has taken the life of our nation abruptly,” President Sebastian Pinera said after casting his ballot in the capital, Santiago.

Sylvia Navarret, a 35-year-old economist, was at the Santiago polling station with her daughter in her arms.

He said he voted for a system that “works for all, all voices are heard” and ensured that “rights and duties are truly fair to all people”.

Forty-year-old university professor Carlos Huartas said his ballot went to candidates who were active in “this social revolution” – referring to the 2019 protests.

Chile’s constitution dates back to 19 dates, and was widely blamed for impeding equitable progress in one of the most unequal economies in the developed economy, dictator Augusto Pinochet’s 1919 dictatorship.

This inequality was one of the main drivers of the October 2019 protests, which resulted in the government agreeing to a referendum on a new constitution a month later – after 36 people died.

Initially scheduled for April 2020, this task finally took place on October 25 last year.

The results were unequivocal: 80 percent voted in favor of a new constitution by a body made up of elected members.

Gender equality

This weekend, more than 1,300 candidates are going to be part of history.

Analysts say the election will be a battle between candidates from left and right parties, where independents are not expected to receive any meaningful support.

The parties on the left broadly seek greater state control over minerals and other natural resources – privatization since most dictatorships – and spend more on education, health, pensions and social welfare.

Electoral staff carry ballot boxes containing ballots in Valparaiso [Rodrigo Garrido/Reuters]

Those on the right who agree with the need to increase social support, mainly to defend the capitalist, free-market system, are grateful for the economic development of the Chilean decade.

First worldwide, half the candidates are – by design – women.

This will also be the case for the 155-member draft group, which will take nine months to bring a new founding law for Chile, which will be approved or rejected by a mandatory national vote next year.

Seventeen seats in the “Conference” on the Constitution are reserved for tribal representatives.

Voters will also elect regional governors, mayors and local councilors this weekend – usually the litmus test for next November’s presidential election.

Rich, but unequal

The campaign was complicated by a Covid-19 outbreak after the decision was made in a two-day election format due to the epidemic of the college, with more than 1.2 million cases in 19 million people and nearly 30,000 deaths.

Chile has one of the highest vaccination rates in South America, more than 48.5 percent of the 15.2 million targets received in two doses to date.

The country has per capita income and is the third highest billionaire in Latin America. The working class and even the upper-middle class live on heavy debt, often for schooling and private pensions.

An OECD report in February said “persistently high inequality” was a challenge for Chile, with 53 per cent of households economically weak and the poorest 20 per cent earning only 5.1 per cent of total income.

There is a low level of satisfaction with the quality of life.

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