Santiago, Chile – Maribel Mora Curriao, a Mapuche poet who lives in the capital of Chile, was delighted to cast a vote on Sunday for what she described as “a special choice to the Mapuche people ”.
Curriao went to Freire, a small town in southern Chile, to vote – and to stay close to his roots.
“We are voting with pride and recognition for the first time. We have done this in depth and we are well aware that this is a unique opportunity not only for us but for all Chileans,” he told Al Jazeera.
“Anything from now on will not be possible without the Mapuche movement. Now it’s not. ”
Chileans began voting on Saturday in a two-day election of mayors, governors and city councilors throughout South America.
Voters are also electing 155 representatives to draft the Constitutional Convention, which was drafted to create new constitutional amendments, amended in the 1980s under the leadership of Augusto Pinochet.
“Everything is in hand,” Andres Tagle, president of the Electoral Service Board, said in a vote, the results of which are expected to be released later Sunday night.
For the first time in Chile’s history, ballot boxes were printed and stored at a polling station on Saturday night. Election officials monitored closed ballot boxes at 2,700 polling stations across the country, including schools and churches, and the Ministry of Defense sent more than 23,000 troops to protect them as security measures.
“If there is fraud, we will find out,” Tagle said.
On Saturday, Chilean President Sebastian Piñera urged voters to cast their ballots, saying “voting is about respecting democracy and our party”. He sent the message: “Today the voice of the people must be heard in this memorable election.”
Representatives elected to participate in the Constitutional Convention will have nine months, plus an additional three months, to draft new Chilean legislation. It will then be handed over to voters next year, and voting will be valid.
Monica Manriquez, 83, was the first to cast a ballot at Luis Arrieta Cañas Primary School in Santiago’s Peñalolen County. It was about 8:30 am local time and a few people were nearby.
“I want to be as involved as I can be in shaping the future of our country,” Manriquez told Al Jazeera. “Elections have a profound impact on the future of the country.”
Followers were low on both days, especially in the workplace. According to the Electoral Service Board, 20% of Chilean 14 million eligible people – another 3 million – voted on Saturday.
Political analysts say the figures came as a result of a lack of awareness and the COVID-19 epidemic. Chile has reported more than 27,800 coronavirus-related deaths and more than 1.28 million cases so far.
Although government officials have assured voters that voting will take place in a safe place amid the epidemic, the country’s health minister on Saturday urged people to “vote and go home”.
According to election experts, voter turnout should be at the same level as last year in October, with Chileans voting 78% of the vote. About 51 percent of Chileans participated in the project.
Luna Follegati, a historian and feminist, voted Sunday morning and affirmed the need for a voice in drafting new legislation.
“Without femininity, there is no social change,” she told Al Jazeera.
“Today, our women’s interests must be included in the drafting of a new constitution. If not, we will continue with a poor democracy with a policy that violates women’s rights and freedoms.