Santiago, Chile – Maribel Mora Curriao, a Mapuche poet who lives in the Chilean capital, is excited to vote on Sunday for what she describes as a “historic election for the Mapuche people ”.
Curriao flew to Freire, a small town in southern Chile, to vote – and close to his roots.
“We voted with pride and identity for the first time. We take this process seriously and we know that it is a great opportunity not only for us but for the Chilean people as a whole, ”he told Al Jazeera.
“Anything that happens from now on will not happen without the Mapuche communities. Now or never.”
Chileans began voting Saturday in two -day elections for mayors, governors and city councilors across the South American nation.
Voters also elected 155 representatives to form a Constitutional Convention tasked with drafting a new constitution to replace the current one, written in the 1980s under the dictatorship of Augusto Pinochet.
“Everything is under control,” Andres Tagle, president of the Electoral Service Board, said of the vote, the results of which are expected to be released late Sunday night.
For the first time in Chile’s history, ballot boxes were sealed and hidden inside voting sites on Saturday night. Election officials guarded sealed 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 a additional security measures.
“If there’s an attempt at fraud, we’ll find out,” Tagle said.
On Saturday, Chilean President Sebastian Piñera urged people to vote, saying that “voting is a tribute to democracy and our society”. He tweeted: “Now the voice of the people must be heard in this historic election.”
Representatives elected to participate in the Constitutional Convention have nine months, with a possible three-month extension, to write Chile’s new constitution. It will also be submitted to voters in a plebiscite next year, and voting is mandatory.
Monica Manriquez, 83, was the first to vote at Luis Arrieta Cañas elementary school in Peñalolen County in Santiago. 8:30 a.m. local time and very few people around.
“I want to be involved in any way I can to shape the future of our country,” Manriquez told Al Jazeera. “Elections mean an important factor in a country’s destiny.”
Turnout will be short on the same days, especially in high -class neighborhoods. According to the Electoral Service Board, 20 percent of Chile’s 14 million eligible voters – about three million people – were cast on the ballots on Saturday.
Political analysts say the small turnout is part of some reason for the lack of information and the COVID-19 pandemic. Chile reports more than 27,800 coronavirus -related deaths and more than 1.28 million cases so far.
Even as government officials assured the public that voting would be held in a safe environment amid the onslaught, on Saturday the country’s health minister urged the public to “vote and go home”.
According to election experts, voter turnout should reach the same level as the plebiscite in October last year, when Chileans voted 78 percent in favor of writing the constitution as well. About 51 percent of Chileans are involved in that process.
Luna Follegati, a historian and feminist, voted Sunday morning and cited the importance of having a voice in drafting the new constitution.
“Without femininity, there is no social change,” she told Al Jazeera.
“Now, our demands for femininity must be included when it comes to writing a new constitution. Otherwise, we will continue in a bad democracy with a political system that is contrary to women’s rights and freedoms. feminist movement is clear in modern times: we will not return to silence. “