Coronavirus in Chile

Chile to Decide New Constitution via Facebook


SANTIAGO – As the number of coronavirus cases in Chile steadily climbs, lawmakers fear it could take months before the curve is flattened. April’s referendum on a new Constitution has already been postponed, and now the Senate has gone even farther, approving a new bill that will require Chileans to vote from home, online. The people of Chile must now vote through a poll on the Chilean president’s Facebook page on Sept. 18, in what is set to be a historic day – for the country, for the world, and for Facebook.

Tens of thousands of Chileans fought for months for a new future after protests erupted on Oct. 18, 2019. After Chilean president Sebastián Piñera decided his country would vote in April on a new Constitution, campaigns for Apruebo (“Approve”) and Rechazo (“Reject”) started earlier this year.

The coronavirus outbreak in Chile, however, forced authorities to postpone this historic day. As large gatherings are prohibited and several cities in Chile are in “total quarantine” due to the high number of Covid-19 cases, the government set a new date for the plebiscite, Oct. 25.

Authorities now fear that October won’t be much better than April, or, at the very least, that the situation in Chile won’t be back to normal. Therefore, a new bill has been adopted that will not only replace the form of registering votes, but it will also move up the timing of the vote. The bill will require Chileans to vote on a new Constitution online, via Facebook, on Sept. 18.

Voting During The Fiestas Patrias

At midnight on Sept. 18, traditionally a day of celebration in the country, a poll will be opened on Piñera’s Facebook page. Just as with the original plan, Chileans will have the opportunity to vote “Approve” or “Reject” and, if voting “Approve,” which body will write the new Constitution.

The Chilean government proudly promoted the decision, stating that Facebook has proven to be a trustworthy platform. The fact that millions of Chileans use Facebook allows for a higher turnout, the lawmakers stated.

Moreover, as a signal of optimism that the worst will be over by Sept. 18, the poll will close promptly at 6:00 a.m. in the morning that day, to avoid disrupting any Fiestas Patrias activities later in the day.

As an emergency measure, the bill will bypass all committee review and go straight to the president for execution into law, and he has indicated that not only will he sign the bill but that he intends to do so with a flourish:

“I have a special pen reserved for this: it’s the one Mark Zuckerberg sent me after we spoke by phone via his platform’s Messenger to confirm Facebook would be hosting the plebiscite. I will tell you that we were concerned about where we might be in October, but we were even more concerned about postponing the vote any longer, so we thought, ‘Let’s do just the opposite: let’s move it up! And let’s use technology. And let’s kick off Fiestas Patrias in high style.’ ”

Several Chilean Senators have also publicly embraced the new, online referendum. UDI-president Jacqueline van Rysselberghe commented that due to the coronavirus “we all experience the benefits of working from home. As Sept. 18 is a day of celebration in Chile, people can vote from the comfort of their homes, even lying in bed with a glass of wine if they want.”

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