Santiago, Chile – On a sunny winter in the Chilean capital, a group gathered in La Reina, a county in the eastern part of Santiago, to support candidates for the convention of the neighboring constitution, before what could be the most important election in the country. In good spirits they hoisted flags, smiled and greeted each other with their elbows. They wore masks and shared alcohol gel.
One candidate, Renato Garrido, called on the people to vote because he said: “A new constitution is the only way for our country to participate, to have justice, to have true freedom and to grow. When citizens hear that they are being listened to, they can reach an agreement with respect and tolerance for all opinions. We must do this out of our love for Chile.
On May 15 and 1, the Chileans will go to the polls to elect 155 members of the Constitutional Convention. Its mission will be to draft a new constitution which should be submitted to the referendum in 2022. After a long struggle, the current constitution – written in the 70s under Pinochet’s dictatorship and much amended in later years – will be dropped. .
More than 13,000 candidates will compete to become members of the Constitutional Convention. For the first time, this election requires gender equality – a proportional number of seats for women and 117 reserved seats for indigenous peoples.
Election experts fear that people will not be able to cast their ballots in large numbers – not because of epidemics, but because the government has released very little information about the whole process.
“Neither the state nor the government has seriously acknowledged that a section of the population does not know that elections will take place this weekend,” said Marta Lagos, director of the well-known polling agency Mori Chile on national television.
Chilean voters will also elect mayors, governors and city councilors across the country. Presidential elections are scheduled for November.
This ambitious election calendar will be implemented when the country endures difficult times: a state of emergency, a night curfew, more than 10 percent of the working population (two and a half million people) unemployed and an epidemic that has killed nearly 27,000 people. Elections were originally planned for April but were postponed due to the large number of people infected with the coronavirus.
Health authorities insisted that Chile would be able to vote in a safer environment as cases have declined in recent weeks as part of Chile’s successful vaccination campaign.
More than seven million people have already received their two shots (“47 percent of the target population”). But the nightmare is not over – about 40 percent of the country is still in lockdown.
According to cultural consultant Xavier Parder, the issue at stake with the upcoming election is “the social contract of our political generation – it will allow us to restore civic coexistence and renew our institutions and their legitimacy.”
“Chile urgently needs to make rules that appeal to all of us. If we want to go back to the path of sustainable development, that is the key. People know that it is not enough to change the constitution, but a country needs to have an institution of a period that lives in our time and in a new society. I believe in people, I believe in Chile and its future. “
Last October, Chile sent a clear message in a national petition where 787 percent of elected members approved a new constitution. They will have nine months to draft a new constitution – a deadline that could be extended for another three months.
Not everyone is enthusiastic.
“The Constitutional Convention was behind us as a result of the Congress Long Agreement. It will be a temporary constitution and in two years we will have a new social uprising because the demands of the people will not be resolved, “Ms Sherman, an economist, told Al Jazeera. Sherman said he would deliberately waste his ballot.
Most Chileans seem to agree with one statement. Economic development will certainly lead to comfort and well-being for everyone, and not just a few.
Over the past two decades, Chile has made progress towards greater economic prosperity and lower poverty. Per capita income has more than doubled in the last 20 years, and Latin America is now at its highest but stagnant. The economy has grown, but under Sebastian Pyro’s right-wing government, one percent of the population owns 25 percent of the country’s wealth. It was this situation that was brutally suppressed by the police, sparking a historic social uprising in October 2019.
This rise was the economic model and the dissatisfaction of the people about the unequal state in the country. A February 2020 report by the National Institute of Human Rights in Chile reported that more than 3,700 people were injured by police (Carabineros) during the October protests.
Some political analysts have expressed concern that expectations for a new constitution may be too ambitious and may not reflect social realities. Citizens want to cover multiple and different issues: human, women’s and workers’ rights, health, education, pension funding, child protection and protection, social welfare, crime, gender equality, environment, domestic violence, freedom of expression, and more.
Patricio Navia, professor of political science at Chile’s NYU and Universidad Diego Portals, said: “People have high expectations of the new constitution. Is not implemented. “
Navia believes that in order to expand Chile’s social security network, “the country must be able to develop much more economically than in the past. For this to happen, there must be clear rules for attracting foreign investment to ensure equal opportunities for all and a level playing field. Must be. “