This article was originally published on The Santiago Times in July 2013.

Less than four months before Chile chooses its next president, the Senate has given citizens living abroad some hope that they may be able participate in the election.

On Monday, the Senate’s Constitutional Commission began analyzing reforms which would give the vote to Chileans abroad. The proposal was issued in June by members of the left-leaning Concertación coalition, including Soledad Alvear and Patricio Walker of the Christian Democratic (DC) party and the Socialist Party’s (PS) Isabel Allende.

Francisco Fuentealba, coordinator of the “Haz Tu Voto Volar” — or Make Your Vote Fly — campaign hopes President Sebastián Piñera will throw his weight behind the reform.

Fuentealba called on the president to encourage his colleagues in the right-leaning Alianza coalition — which is made up of the National Renewal (RN) and the Independent Democratic Union (UDI) — to endorse the opposition’s proposal.

Chileans living abroad continue to campaign for the right to vote. Photo by Haz tu voto volar / Facebook

“We believe that, with some political will, parliamentarians of the Concertación and National Renewal, and hopefully someone from the Independent Democratic Union, could reach an agreement and vote in the next election,” Fuentealba told The Santiago Times.

About 850,000 Chileans living abroad are ineligible to vote. The fight for their right to vote has been ongoing since the return to democracy in 1990, after the dictatorship of Gen. Augusto Pinochet.

Marco Enríquez-Ominami, the presidential candidate for the left-wing Progressive Party (PRO) which lies outside either major coalition, believes it is a recurring theme in electoral times, but one that is always tackled “without conviction.”

“It was one of Piñera’s campaign promises, and has been an eternal discourse of the Concertación,” he told The Santiago Times.

Valeria Lübbert, a Chilean citizen living in the U.S. and campaign coordinator for Haz Tu Voto Volar, said the president is unlikely to gain the support of the more conservative members of his coalition.

“The vote of Chileans abroad obviously sheds doubt on Sebastián Piñera’s leadership — it demonstrates that he is weakened by his coalition and it highlights the right’s failures on a topic which is key for the strengthening of democracy in Chile,”
she told Radio Universidad de Chile.

The Constitution in its current state was adopted under Pinochet and prevents nationals living abroad from taking part in plebiscites, votes and referendums. The new reform would enable anyone who has Chilean citizenship, is over 18 and has not been convicted of a crime to register and vote via the consulate in their country of residence.

The Senate Constitutional Committee will continue its discussions next Monday. The presidential election is scheduled for Nov. 17.

Copyright 2013 - The Santiago Times
Image via Facebook Haz Tu Voto Volar