Only four days away and at the height of the pandemic, the Chilean Parliament approved that Tuesday to postpone for five weeks the mega – elections of April 10 and 11 to elect municipal and regional representatives, as well as the delegates who will draft a new Constitution.
The change of date to May 15 and 16, requested by the medical union after the worsening of the pandemic and proposed by the Government on March 29, was promulgated this Tuesday by the country’s president, Sebastián Piñera.
“The reasons to promote this postponement are very solid and are basically two: first, to take care of the health of our compatriots and, second, to take care of the health of our democracy,” explained the conservative president.
The serious health situation that Chile is going through “anticipated a high abstention by citizens” and, Piñera pointed out, “in these elections, in which we are going to elect the constituents (…), the participation of each and every one of the citizens it is fundamental and constitutes a moral commitment to our country. ”
The delay in approving the postponement of the elections – the largest in Chile’s recent history, with more than 16,700 candidates – was due to differences in some details between the ruling party and the opposition. After a long debate of several days, the parliamentarians decided to suspend the electoral campaigns until April 28 and that the mayors who had left their positions to opt for re-election return to them until April 15.
The deputies and senators rejected, however, the declaration as holidays of the days of the election, the cancellation during the period of postponement of the bank interest for the candidates who requested credits to carry out the campaign and the free transportation to encourage participation . “I regret that it is not an inalienable holiday. The people who work will depend on the will of the employers and will have to go to vote in just two hours,” said Socialist Senator Isabel Allende.
For the ultra-conservative parliamentarian Iván Moreira, the discussion has reached “a worrying level of exaggeration”: “The important thing is to suspend the elections for a health issue and the essential thing is the people and explain to them what positions they should choose,” he said. “I do not feel that the incentives are being given to seek massive participation in the elections,” added opposition Jaime Quintana.
NEW ELECTORAL CALENDAR
The postponement also implies that the second round of the elections for regional governors – a position of new election, since until now they were appointed by the Executive – will go from May 9 to June 13, while the presidential primaries will be held on 18 July.
The left and center-left opposition agreed last week to move the elections in exchange for greater mobility restrictions to contain the pandemic and ensure a good epidemiological situation in May, as well as a package of economic measures so that the most vulnerable and the decimated middle classes respect the quarantines and do not go out to work.
With hospital occupancy at 95% and record numbers of infections due to the expansion of new variants, Chile is going through the worst moment of the pandemic and the authorities decided at the end of March to decree a strict home confinement for more than 83% of the population, among them the more than 7 million residents of the capital.
The worsening of the health crisis runs parallel to a successful vaccination process, thanks to which more than 7 million people have already received at least one dose of the covid-19 vaccine (more than 4 million with the two injections) , which places Chile as one of the countries with the highest percentage of the inoculated population.
The Chilean government believes that the first effects of the vaccination will be noticeable in mid-April and trusts that for the eventual elections in May there will be 9.3 million people with at least one dose.