Parties under Stress: Using a Linkage Decay Framework to Analyze the Chilean Party System

Jana Morgan, Carlos Meléndez


Conventional wisdom suggests Chile’s party system is highly institutionalized. However, recent declines in participation and partisanship have begun to raise questions about this veneer of stability. This article assesses the current state of the Chilean party system, analyzing its ability to provide linkage. We specify a theoretical framework for identifying challenges to linkage and constraints on necessary adaptation. We then use this framework to evaluate linkage in the contemporary Chilean system, emphasizing how its representational profile has changed since the democratic transition. The analysis suggests the two partisan coalitions no longer present clear policy alternatives and programmatic representation increasingly depends on policy responsiveness and relics of old ideological divides. Significant institutional constraints impede parties’ ability to incorporate demands from emerging social groups, and clientelism remains a complementary but not core linkage mechanism. This evidence indicates that while representation in Chile has not yet failed, the system contains serious vulnerabilities.

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