On May 15th and 16th, our country will live the most important elections in the history of the country. Through them, we will have the great opportunity to resume citizen trust and help to cement a more participatory democracy.
Such a vote will take place in a complex health and economic context, so it is legitimate to ask what guarantees we can expect from the authorities to safeguard the health of citizens and encourage broad voter participation.
In this sense, delaying the elections of 10 and 11 April, attended by the health emergency, seems to have been a wise decision. Economically, however, it would have been desirable to grant special benefits for an unprecedented situation. Setting May 15 and 16 as unprofitable holidays and establishing the free public transport throughout the country seemed like a reasonable initiative. However, the two proposals were rejected by Congress. In the case of the elimination of the tariff, for a reason that today sounds out of time: it was considered to be a public expenditure and, consequently, an exclusive initiative of the President of the Republic.
Given the passivity of the Government, which gave no indication on these matters, we must resign ourselves to the idea that there will be no such gratuitousness during 15 and 16 May. It is not far-fetched to think that this will discourage voter turnout, particularly in the low strata, and will therefore affect our democracy, which, paradoxically, our authorities are called to safeguard.
In this regard, it is important to note that, since the 2016 elections, the State has been providing free public transport in isolated and rural areas during voting days. In 2017, the benefit was extended to the Santiago Metro, the Valparaiso Metro and the Biotren; a breakthrough that the current government wanted to ignore for the October 2020 plebiscite, but which it finally retorted. It appears that this same benefit will be granted for the next election, which is clearly insufficient in the face of the economic crisis we are going through.
A strong signal is urgently needed and that the Government amends the way and decrees the indispensable holiday and leaves the tariffs without effect during that weekend, in order to strengthen and make our democracy more inclusive. In this way we will begin to open the doors to a new way of relating, where the value of democracy is in convictions and not in the price to sustain it.
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