Sunday, January 17, 2010

This is what democracy looks like. Chile Elections, 2010, Sebastian Piñera


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 bearshaped blogpost.

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...

Finally, damnit!


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.


horrible, aren't they?

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.


Margaret said...

Wow! Great shots Eileen! Not that I would expect anything less from you, of course! I wanted to get out in the streets, but like you, felt imposterish and C was feeling downish, so we stayed home and watched it all on TV instead.
I'll be on the fence about all this for a while to come, but think that this proves that I need to register the next time around... and for the record, I don't think the US has a problem with us voting, as long as we don't go changing nationalities or getting dual citizenship...

Annje said...

All the photos are great, but I love the shot of the girl with confetti in her hair. I can't decide how I would feel about voting there, I guess I'll have to wait 5 years and then see.

Stephanie said...

can i post a link to your blog on FB? You captured it all so well, I would love for my friends and family to get a glimpse? Steph

Sharon said...

I'm staying in the place that supported Piñera the most, so the noise reached almost unbearable levels.
I think we live in interesting times. Chile is not a country that leans towards the right, so this is highly unusual, even more after the dictatorship and all.
I think Piñera's victory has more to do with Frei's ineptitude as a president (and a little bit of discontent with the current government) than with the actual political preferences of chileans.

Eileen said...

Margaret, thanks as always for your positivity. We'll have to another photo safari soon.

Annje, I am a sucker for kids at parades and such, and that little girls eyelashed almost poked my eye out. Margaret and Matt were talking about voting over on cachandochile, I'm still on the fence a bit.

Stephanie, please go ahead. This blog is one of the least secret things about me. I'd be happy for your family to see what I saw yesterday. And thanks for commenting!

Sharon, I'm sure you're right that no one wanted to give Frei another chance. Also, 20 years of one party is a little much. The question Matt and Margaret were asking on cachandochile does resonate: Why does a billionaire want to run a country? I hope it's for the best, and I can imagine that where you live was terribly noisy! Now the question, what will happen to the dollar? It's been floundering lately against the peso.

Candice said...

Sweet, sweet shots Eileen. Totally captures the atmosphere of the day.

Sara said...

Great photos!

I was thinking that perhaps if he can bring what he promises then that will be a welcome change, however i don't like how socially conservative he is.

planetnomad said...

Awesome photos!
You know what I love about blogging? I have never been to Chile and until recently wasn't esp interested, but today I saw the headline about the election and read the entire story on Yahoo news because now I feel this connection to Chile, and I hope to visit someday. I even knew who the guys were from your previous post. I can see why you're concerned about Pinera, but at least the atmosphere is such that you can now openly voice those concerns. That's worth a lot.

Eileen said...

Candice, thanks! you're so on top of things, with the commenting. Love it, I do.

Sara, yes social conservatism is weird, not just because it's not my stance, but because it doesn't represent the actual day-to-day life of Chileans. They are not as conservative as the Church or Opus Dei would have them be. And that I cannot abide, the imposition of a "moral" order from above.

Planet Nomad, YES! This! I want to go to Morocco so badly I can feel the dust in my teeth! (unpaved roadtrip, please, skip the sheep innards, if that's ok). I love the connection we've made (we being bloggers in general, though yours and mine is sweet as well).

I also cannot voice enough how appreciative I am to live in a democracy where I can pretty much say anything that occurs to me and take pictures of people in the street and not end up in some kind of gulag for photogs, which is really not funny, given the state of the world and the history that has led us all here.

Laura said...

Thanks for all the photos and commentary-I'm out in the country so I don't get see a lot of "action." I am in a really mixed(but divided) area of rich and poor. And the lower middle to middle really, really want to be in that upper class. I think many believe by electing Pinera, wealth will just come to them. I think it's a combination of the average Chilean being terribly naive about business and a class thing-Pinera is of the right class and has a blond wife too!

I really hope this is the change they want.

Kyle said...

"I think Piñera's victory has more to do with Frei's ineptitude as a president."

Couldn't agree more. Add to that my reasoning that regardless of Frei's policies and experience and anything that counts for or against him, every time he talked I got the impression that he was an out of touch old grandpa -- not necessarily the impression that one running for president hopes to give.

But that being said, I really didn't care who won the election. It seemed pretty obvious to me that Pinera was going to win but I feel like either way we're not really going to see any true changes.

Allen Trottier said...

I'm a big fan of street photography because you get the feel of the moment. These are great photos.