Chile is a democracy. That means that every four years, every single registered voter will get out to vote, or register their absence at a commisary (voting is compulsory here, unless you’re dying or more than 200 km away or over a certain age). It’s either a privilege or a giant pain, depending on who you ask, but you’d think that more people would be excited about it since they’ve only been at it for about 20 years in recent times, what with the dictatorship and all. Oh yeah, that.
Today was the run-off between Sebastián Piñera and Eduardo Frei, representing kind of the right and kind of the middle-left. I say kind of because by the time the run-off was held, most people were saying they barely saw a difference in the two candidates. Run-offs are held when no candidate gets more than 50% in the first elections, which I talked about in this other fabulous elsewhere.
Of prime importance was probably that Piñera was promising a large number of jobs at a time that we too, are feeling the crunch of the economic crisis. Joblessness is a big issue, as it should be, and people are thrilled with the idea of getting back to work.
I could vote in Chile. I could actually register to vote, and the Chilean government would be pleased to let me do so. The US government, on the other hand (I believe) has no policy on whether or not I can or should vote here. Never wishing to run afoul of my home government, and any future policies it may put in effect, I had decided that registering to vote here is not in the cards for me, though this year’s results have me a little on the fence for the next go-round.
The fact that I don’t vote in Chile means that although I have a fairly strong opinion on who I wanted to win (gee, I wonder who that would have been), I kind of feel like I don’t have much of a right to shout it from the rooftops. Let’s just say I felt like a giant, uncomfortable impostor at the Piñera celebration today, and just as I was about to abandon my solid political stance for a minute and sway to the music (btw, not so good for picture taking), someone tapped me on the shoulder, pointing out some (also non-Piñera supporting) friends of mine, who I went over to talk to. No swaying ensued.
So I concentrated on the crowds and the cheers, and the really awful slogan some teenage girls where shouting, which went like this:
Frei, escucha, vete a la chucha. (Listen up Frei, and go to hell). I know they were a small minority, but really, I thought conservatives were supposed to be beyond that kind of petty name calling. Or aggressive sign making, like this one, which says…
But in general, everyone was very well-behaved, brought their children out to celebrate the victory, and the children compensated by being disgustingly photogenic, as they are wont to do.
And people walked up and down the street
And hung out their windows
And threw confetti
And looked dignified
And had romantic moments
And took pictures (love catching the photogs)
And night fell, and the festivities continued
And I used the guardrail that separates the two sides of the street I was on (the Alameda) as an improvised tripod. (And yes, I see the dirt on my sensor, and I am working on it, most sorry).
And then I pedalled home, thankful that I live in a democracy, and hoping that the change Piñera has promised tends more towards the provision of jobs, and less towards the revocation or stalling of what I consider to be human rights. More than half the people voted for him. I really hope they’re right. By which I mean correct.
Visit Cachandochile for her latest news on the elections with a nice factual breakdown of who votes in Chile. And check out the rest of the album on Flickr if you’re wondering what else I snapped and shared tonight.