Today, May 7, Chileans head to the polls to vote for their representatives in the Constitutional Council. The members of this council will be tasked with writing the final draft of the new proposed constitution. Chile Today visited two voting stations and gauged the atmosphere.
In Barrio Italia it feels like a regular Sunday afternoon. It is a little before 1 P.M., and relatively quiet on the streets. Chileans and tourists walk by, and restaurant owners set up their terraces.
Closer to local de votacion Liceo Juan Pablo Duarte it gets busier. People are lining up in front of the school’s entrance, waiting to get in and cast their vote. They are let in based on their ‘table number’. This is the number they receive when logging in on servel.cl. It tells voters where their local de votacion is, and at which specific table they can cast their vote.
Liceo Juan Pablo Duarte hosts numbers 176 to 209, meaning that there are 31 voting booths. Some booths are located in the school’s classrooms, divided over three floors. Others are set up in the courtyard, which is covered by a large tent.
It is peak hour, the location’s supervisor says. Between 1 and 2 P.M., lunch hour, they expect the most voters. Later that afternoon, when many Chileans take a siesta, it will be more quiet.
It might be peak hour, but the voting process seems to go swiftly. The atmosphere is relaxed. Chileans calmly line up behind tables that correspond with their table number, maintain distance with other voters, waiting until they can do their democratic duty. The audience is broad: there are older couples walking with a cane, there are families with children that are too young to vote, and there are people walking their dogs, seemingly combining their daily obligations with this one-time commitment.
There are many people from Servel present, ready to help voters with questions, to lead them to the correct tables and to make sure that the volunteers working at the tables have all the necessary materials.
Only a few tables have lines of more than three people. The people working at these tables probably have less experience with the voting process, the supervisor explains. Even so, he is very satisfied with the process until now. There have been no major complications or hold-ups, everything goes very smoothly.
Once at the table, voters receive their voting ballot and enter the booth. Once filled in, they place their folded ballots in a large, translucent box. This box will remain closed until after 6 P.M., when the last votes are cast. Only then the counting process will start.
There are several members of the military present to keep an eye on the process. This is a standard measure, tells the head of the security. They bring in the voting ballots, and stay on the premises until the votes are counted. A soldier with a large gun stands guard at the school’s exit. It gives off an intimidating view, but she smiles friendly and everyone who’s passing by.
It is clearly more busy at local de votacion Estadio Nacional. Hundreds of people walk in and out the stadium’s premises. There are more military personnel present, and vans of TV and radio crews are lined up outside. Within the stadium’s gate, a group is standing with a microphone, seemingly waiting for a representative or a spokesperson.
Estadio Nacional is a symbolic voting location. During the military dictatorship, that lasted from 1973 until 1990, the stadium was used as a detention and torture facility. Over the course of the dictatorship, thousands of political prisoners have been held captive here.
Despite its tragic history, today the stadium serves a purpose in the constitutional process. Just like at Liceo Juan Pablo Duarte, the atmosphere is good this afternoon. Voters walk on and off to the voting booths, talk with their neighbors, or enjoy a snack in the sun.
Amanda (23) is one of the Chileans who came to Estadio Nacional today. She voted for list D (the list with government party Convergenica Social), she says. Although she “lacks confidence” in the constitutional process, he does believe that it is important to vote: “It represents my responsibility and commitment to my country.”
By voting for the government coalition, she hopes that the chances are higher to get a constitution that comes close to the one that was rejected in 2022 (but that Amanda voted apruebo for). “What a majority of Chileans want is a constitution that ensures quality health and education, decent pensions, safety… a good life basically. I do believe that the current government can help with that.”
Josefina (32) also voted for list D. But, even though she voted for the government coalition, she is not happy with the voting process.
“The elections are ‘meh’,” she says. “They feel useless. It’s like we have to vote for the protocol, but nothing is going to change anyway.” It is a very common feeling in her surroundings, she says: “After last year’s rechazo, many people seem discouraged with the process. It is the third time we vote about the constitution in three years; the topic is diluted. I feel like many people lost trust in the process.”
Augustin (26) makes a similar statement. “I didn’t want to vote this year, because now we have to vote for parties and politicians that always do it [are involved in national politics].” If today’s elections weren’t mandatory, he wouldn’t have shown up, he said. “I don’t want the politicians to do it. At least last time if felt like we, the citizens, were in charge. But now we have to trust the politicians ‘of always’, and I don’t think they will do what is right for us.”
Even so, Augustin had to vote. “Who I voted for? The Communist Party. It’s not like I’m a communist, hahah, but I feel like they at least can change something.”
Matthijs is a newly graduated journalism student from Groningen, the Netherlands. As a starting journalist and aspiring foreign correspondent, he decided to extend his 6-month university exchange in Chile to do an internship at Chile Today. He enjoys writing about a broad range of topics, but international relations, politics and conflicts are his key interests.