Many Chileans exercised their right to vote for the first time in Sunday’s presidential election thanks to a revamped voting system that came into effect last year.
Hold your horses, though. That doesn’t mean we have a new president yet. This is Chile we’re talking about… these things take time. Anyhow…
Here are some of the changes implemented in this year’s election:
- Voting is no longer mandatory: Before 2012, if you chose to sign up to vote, you were obligated to vote for the rest of your life. If you didn’t vote, you were fined between 18,500 and 120,000 Chilean pesos (37.00 – 240.00 USD).
- Inscription is automatic: If you are a Chilean citizen, you can vote as soon as you turn 18. Just enter your identification number at the Servicio Electoral page, and they’ll tell you where you’re registered to vote. For those of us who are foreigners, five years of residence is sufficient to have your vote counted in these direct elections.
- Men and women can now vote in the same place: Elections take place in schools and other public buildings, and each voter has a designated place to vote. But previously, women and men had different designated voting centers.
- Presidential elections now happen on the third Sunday of November, whereas before they occurred on the Sunday closest to December 11. This allows a little more time for the second round of voting before the new president is sworn in to office. And since Chile requires an absolute majority, meaning that the winning candidate gets more than 50% of the vote, a second round is usually pretty likely.
With about 46 percent of the vote, Michelle Bachelet pulled ahead of the other candidates. Bachelet is running for her second term and representing the Nueva Mayoría (check out point number 5 in this post). Presidents cannot serve consecutive terms, which is why Bachelet is running for her second term now, four years after her first term ended.
Behind her was Evelyn Matthei, economist and experienced politician. Matthei is representing the Alianza, a rightist coalition that incorporates the Independent Democratic Union and the National Renewal party, with 25 percent of the vote.
Chile has a multiparty state, but it is mostly split between two huge coalitions: the left versus the right, represented by the candidates above. There were seven other candidates running for the presidency, as you can see in the charts, but the coalitions, as usual, took the bulk of the votes.
We’ll see what happens after the next round on December 15. In the meantime, I’m interested in what y’all think about this type of multiparty system? What are its benefits? What are its shortcomings?