Chilean President Sebastián Piñera Sunday announced he would put forward a bill to postpone the April 10-11 elections until May in view of the country's critical situation regarding Covid-19 infections and diseases.
The polls to appoint a Constitutional Convention to rewrite the nation's Magna Carta passed in 1980 by the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet are likely to deepen the spread of the Sars-CoV-2 virus, leading hospital installations to a likely collapse, according to health authorities.
Piñera intends to effectively hold the on May 15 and 16. He also said he knew the difficulties that this could cause to the candidates, but warned that health came first. Lawmakers are expected to convene Monday to make a final decision on the presiddential proposal.
Senate Speaker Yasna Provoste was optimistic about getting a favourable resolution and posted on social media that otherwise we will find ourselves in 5 weeks with an equal or worse situation.
Apart from the 155 members of the Constitutional Assembly, governors and municipal authorities are to be chosen in the coming polls.
“This has been a very difficult decision, we must take it and we have the full conviction that it is the best for Chile and Chileans, explained Piñera, after an extraordinary meeting at the La Moneda palace with his closest aides.
If, as expected, Congress supports the bill, the government shall need to ensure the electoral process is not clouded. It woull in fact be the second time municipal elections are postponed. They should have been held on October 25, 2020, but were postponed due to the pandemic.
Municipalities are currently ruled by interim mayors and councilors whose terms would be extended should the bill be passed.
Political analysts warned these sort of decisions can have an impact on the democratic system, regardless of how much consideration should be given to the reccommendations of health experts.
The bill also provides for the second round of the governor's elections to be held on July 4, the same day as the presidential primary elections.
The Chilean government hopes to have vaccinated some 9.3 million people by election days, “that is, those over 40 years of age with one dose, and 7.3 million people , those over 50, with two doses.”
Piñera added that protecting the health and life of our compatriots has always been our first priority and commitment.
In Chile, this outbreak has meant a greater number of infected people and more hospitalized patients, which has made the most of the medical staff and the capacity of our Health System,” he added.
The postponement would also mean state funding of candidates should also be extended.
Chile has already vaccinated almost 6.4 million people (3.2 with two doses) out of little less than 20 million inhabitants. But in light of the sanitary crisis, the World Health Organization (WHO) has admitted vaccination is not a substitute for prevention.