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

Chileans vote on Sunday in a second polling day to elect 155 delegates to the Constituent Assembly, which will rewrite the country’s dictatorship-era constitution in a bid to tackle deep social inequalities that have sparked protests deadly in 2019.

About 14 million people are eligible to vote this weekend in what many consider Chile’s most important election since its return to democracy 31 years ago.

More than three million people, or about 20.4% of the electorate, voted on Saturday, according to the country’s election service.

“I hope we have a constitution that captures the soul of our nation,” President Sebastian Pinera said after voting in Santiago, the capital.

Silvia Navarrete, a 35-year-old economist, was at a Santiago polling station with her young daughter in her arms.

She said she voted for a system that “works for everyone, allowing all voices to be heard” and ensuring “that rights and duties are truly fair for all human beings”.

40-year-old university professor Carlos Huertas said his ballot went to candidates who had been active in “this social revolution” – referring to the 2019 protests.

Chile’s constitution dates back to 1980, enacted during the height of dictator Augusto Pinochet’s reign from 1973 to 1990, and is widely accused of having blocked equitable progress in a country ranked among the most unequal among advanced economies.

This inequality was a major driver of the October 2019 protests, leading a month later – after 36 deaths – to the government agreeing to a referendum on a new constitution.

This plebiscite, initially scheduled for April 2020 but delayed due to the coronavirus pandemic, finally took place on October 25 of last year.

The result was unequivocal: 80% voted for a new constitution to be drafted by a body made up entirely of elected members.

Gender parity

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

Analysts say the election will be a battle between candidates from left and right parties, with independents not expected to gain significant support.

Left-wing parties are generally seeking greater state control over mineral and other natural resources – most of which have been privatized since the dictatorship – and more public spending on education, health, pensions and more. Social Protection.

Election officers carry ballot boxes with votes in Valparaiso [Rodrigo Garrido/Reuters]

Those on the right, with a nod to the need for stronger social support, largely defend the capitalist free market system they thank for Chile’s decades of economic growth.

In a world first, half of the candidates are – by design – women.

So will the 155-member drafting group, which will have nine months to propose a new founding law for Chile, which will either be approved or rejected next year in a mandatory national vote.

Seventeen seats on the constitution-drafting “convention” are reserved for indigenous representatives.

Voters will also elect regional governors, mayors and local councilors this weekend – usually a litmus test for presidential elections, scheduled for November.

Rich, but uneven

The campaign has been complicated amid a COVID-19 outbreak that has resulted in more than 1.2 million cases and nearly 30,000 deaths in the country of 19 million people, the two-day election format having been decided due to the pandemic.

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

The country has the highest per capita income and the third most multimillionaire in Latin America. But the working classes and even the upper middle classes live with heavy debts, often to pay for school fees and private pensions.

An OECD report released in February said that “still high inequality” was a major challenge for Chile, with 53 percent of households classified as economically vulnerable and the poorest 20 percent earning just 5 percent. 1 percent of total income.

The level of satisfaction with the quality of life is low.

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