The political agreement to open the door to a new Magna Carta emerged after a wave of protests last year, stemming from claims ranging from criticism of the capitalist system to improving health and education conditions.
Despite the delay in the arrival of some polling station managers and sanitary measures delayed the installation of some points, people patiently came to exercise their right to vote. year.
“Approve” or “Rejection” was the first question that the more than 14.7 million voters called to participate in a country where voting has been voluntary since 2012 had to answer.. Given the magnitude of the public debate after the peaceful and violent protests that the country has experienced since October 18 of last year, a high level of participation with sanitary measures is expected due to the pandemic.
The polls give broad support to the “I approve” option, with between 60% and 75% of the preferences. But the pandemic – which on Saturday exceeded 500,000 infected and almost 14,000 deaths in Chile in almost eight months – adds uncertainty about electoral participation in a country where voting is voluntary.
The Chilean president, Sebastian Piñera, was one of the first to vote in a local in the Santiago commune of Las Condes and summoned to go to the polls in a peaceful way and demanded “Let everyone come to vote, because all voices matter”.
The voting tables officially opened at 08:00 (1:00 GMT) and remained open for 12 hours, more than usual, and with evening shifts for people over 60 years of age, in order to apply measures against the contagion of coronavirus and avoid crowds in this country that after more than seven months of quarantines adds more than 500,000 infections and more than 13,800 deaths.
In Santiago, with a morning between 9 and 10 degrees of temperature, the mobilization of voters began early in a calm way.
The first results from abroad came from New Zealand. 90% of Chileans with the right to vote in this referendum who live in that country voted for the option “Approve” while 8% did so for “Rejection”, according to local television stations with consular information.
The government spokesman, Jaime Bellolio, said that there was a good evaluation of the process with the presence of many people in some centers.
After being postponed in April due to the spread of COVID-19, the authorities decided to carry out the plebiscite under strict health protocols.
“I am very excited. After waiting so long for this process, after the plebiscite was achieved last year, which was postponed in April, from the fear of a regrowth that confines us again, it is so important that this fact is happening today. historic, “Alma San Martin, a 26-year-old student, told Reuters after voting in downtown Santiago.
All voting centers in the center of the capital were disinfected and prepared with antiviral copper surfaces to reduce the risks of contagion, at a time when the country has already exceeded 500,000 infections and is close to 14,000 deaths.
The public transport system has extended its hours and will be free to facilitate the movement of people to the voting centers.
The nightly curfew in place to counter the spread of the virus has also been postponed so that people can go home.
The electoral authority previously reported that around 8:00 p.m. local time (2300 GMT) it would announce the result of the Chilean vote abroad and an hour later it would deliver the first official bulletin of local polling stations.