Crisis of Representation in Chile? The Institutional Connection

Peter M. Siavelis


This article analyzes the challenges to democratic representation in contemporary Chile, with an institutional focus. I argue that the post-authoritarian model of politics was deeply constrained by institutions and practices inherited by democratic authorities and reinforced by the model of transitional politics and its series of informal institutions, which first facilitated, but then hindered democratic performance. While this does not point to a regime-threatening crisis, there are deep challenges to representation and a desire for a different model of politics that is more capable of resolving conflicts and satisfying citizen demands. I posit that, until now, Chile’s formal and informal institutions have privileged stability over representation, accountability, and legitimacy. Consequently, it has fallen to social movements to set the agenda for change aimed at addressing Chile’s deeper problems of political and social inequality. I argue that institutional reforms are a necessary, yet insufficient, antidote to current challenges of representation.

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