Robust Electoral Process in Chile

Chile is a steady democracy that has experienced a substantial expansion of political rights and civil liberties after the return of civilian rule in 1990. Enduring concerns include corruption and unrest related to land disputes with Indigenous Mapuche people.

Electoral Process

Presidential elections in Chile are known to be free and fair. Direct elections are held to elect the president to a four-year term. Consecutive terms are prohibited. In December 2021, Gabriel Boric was elected to the presidency by Chileans. Boric (a leftist member of Congress), won the second round of the election with 55.8 percent of the vote at a young age of 35, becoming the youngest elected president in Chilean history. He was sworn into office in March 2022.

The upper house (the Senate) has 50 seats, and the lower house (the Chamber of Deputies) has 155 seats; all members are elected directly. Senators serve longish term of eight years, with half seats up for election every four years, and Chamber of Deputies members are elected to four-year terms.

In November 2021, all 155 members of the Chamber of Deputies and Chileans elected 27 of 50 senators and. No coalition got a majority of seats, and both chambers remain politically diverse. Chile’s electoral framework is quite robust and well implemented in general. A constitutional reform process was initiated by an October 2020 national plebiscite, conducted in response to extensive protests held the previous year. In May 2021, a Constitutional Convention with 155 members was elected to draft a fresh constitution; the body published its final proposal in July 2022. The left-leaning proposed constitution was rejected by a huge majority of voters i.e. 62 percent, in a national plebiscite in held in September 2022.

In January 2023, a commission of 24 experts was appointed by the Congress to draft the preliminary text of a fresh constitution. In May, voters elected 50 councilors—25 womenand 25 men—to draft a new constitution in accordance with the experts’ preliminary text. Voting in the May election was obligatory. A 51st councilor representing Chile’s Native population was also elected in May, after obtaining the 1.5% of the total vote required for the addition of an Indigenous representative to the council. Winning 23 of 50 available seats, the far-right Republican Party (PLR) became the largest party on the Constitutional Council, while traditional right-wing parties won a further 11 seats. Altogether, Chile’s conservative political element held over three-fifths majority of the council required to approve articles, while other political groupings lacked the capability to veto them.

The conservative-majority Constitutional Council proposed the final draft of the new constitution in November. It was rejected in a December constitutional referendum by almost 56 percent of voters. Following the the second rejection of a new constitution in just over a year President Boric brought the constitution reform project to an abrupt close, stating that the existing constitution would remain in place.

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