Side Event

The Chilean Plebiscite: What Does It Mean for Democracy?

People on the streets in Chile protesting, October 2019.

Image Credit: Diego Correa on Flickr 

Please join International IDEA and the Wilson Center's Latin American Program on Friday, October 16, 2020, 09:00 – 10:15, EST to discuss the upcoming plebiscite and its meaning for both Chile and Latin America.

One year after mass protests rocked Santiago and other cities throughout Chile, the country will hold an October 25 national plebiscite to reform the constitution dating from the years of the military dictatorship. Proponents of Apruebo (I approve) view a new constitution as a means to expand democratic freedoms and participation and overcome deep-rooted social inequalities. Those in the opposite camp, Rechazo (I reject) oppose the drafting of a fundamentally new charter, suggesting that the process could result in the erosion of fundamental democratic principles and open a Pandora’s box of unknown economic and social consequences.

A second question on the October ballot has to do with the mechanism for drafting a new constitution. At stake are two different procedural models: the election of an entirely new constituent assembly, or a hybrid model of current legislators in addition to elected citizens. If citizens vote to approve a new constitution, a subsequent vote will be held in April 2021 to choose the representatives who will draft it. A final vote on the new constitution will take place in 2022.

What does the debate over constitutional reform in Chile mean for the future of democracy in Chile and elsewhere in the region? Is Chile’s free-market, export-oriented economic model at risk? Is a new constitution the best path toward broader democratic representation and social equality? What are the risks?


  • The Honorable Heraldo Muñoz: President, Party for Democracy and former Minister of Foreign Affairs, Chile.
  • The Honorable Darío Paya: Executive President, Leadership Institute Chile and former Ambassador of Chile to the OAS.
  • Pamela Figueroa: Professor, University of Santiago de Chile.
  • Patricio Navia: Professor, Diego Portales University and New York University.

Introduction by Daniel Zovatto, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean, International IDEA.

Moderated by Cynthia J. Arnson, Director, Latin American Program, Wilson Center.

*The webcast will be available on Wilson Center's website on the day of the event. Registered participants will NOT receive an email with additional instructions on how to access the event.

Partner Organizations/collaborators: 
Wilson Center