Monday, November 18, 2013

Chilean Expats Opt for Bachelet in “Virtual” Election

Chilean expats who do not have the right to vote gave their support to former President Michelle Bachelet in a “virtual” election for the South American country’s presidency.

Much like the real vote that took place on Sunday, the country’s first female president won easily over her eight opponents with 34.9% support among the thousands of registered participants living in more than 100 countries. The 4249 votes in her favor were more than twice that of second-place candidate Marcel Claude but not enough to avoid a runoff according to the “symbolic” election results.

Ruling party candidate Evelyn Matthei ended in fourth among expats though she will participate in a second round against Bachelet in Chile next month.  The conservative ex-minister was one of two candidates that did not publicly back the “virtual” election that was held via Internet between November 10th and 16th. 

“Nearly 12,500 Chileans living abroad took part and their enthusiasm showed that they want to be a part of the Chilean electoral process,” reportedly said a statement from Voto Ciudadano, a group sponsoring the online plebiscite.  “We are still Chileans (despite living abroad) and its time that we are granted the right to vote,” added the group via its Facebook page.

The Chilean Senate in September approved a constitutional amendment that would grant eligible Chilean expats the right to vote in presidential elections and national referendums.   The proposal has been opposed to mainly by conservative politicians such as senator Carlos Larraín who claimed that Chileans living abroad “don’t pay taxes, are absent from the effects of political policies and are unaware of the occurrences of Chilean life”.  (According to one article, the real reason for the opposition may be since some expats are exiles that left Chile during the Pinochet dictatorship).

Conversely, the amendment has received support among leftist politicians such as Bachelet who yesterday lamented that Chilean expats “cannot exercise a right (to vote) that is allowed in many other nations.”

Despite the opposition of Larraín and others on the right, the expat voting proposal has a good chance of becoming law if Bachelet gets elected.  Her Nueva Mayoria coalition in Congress expanded and will include new legislators such as ex-university protest leaders Camila Vallejo and Giorgio Jackson.

For Tomás Barros of the Inria Chile foundation, the “Make Your Vote Fly” event proved that “there is the technology available to carry out an election among cleans living abroad and all that’s left is the approval of Congress.

Most Latin American states including Colombia, Honduras and Mexico grant voting rights to expats residing abroad though the voting laws vary from country to country. 

El Salvadoran legislators earlier this year gave the green light to a proposal permitting expats to vote while tens of thousands of Venezuelans living abroad participated in this April’s contentious presidential election.

Video Source– YouTube via user Sergio Saavedra

Online Sources – CNN; AS/COA; Fox News Latino; The Guardian;; La Nacion; Publimetro; Radio UChile; BBC News; Diario Financiero;

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