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International IDEA provides support towards political reforms in Chile
Santiago, Chile

Daniel Zovatto, Regional Director for Latin America and the Caribbean during his speech (Photo Credit: Francisco Espinoza)

The International Seminar "Political Reforms in Chile 2014-2016", an event organized by International IDEA in collaboration with the Ministry of the General Secretariat of the Presidency (SEGPRES) was held on 5 December 2017 in Santiago, Chile. The inaugural ceremony was attended by the President of the Republic, Michelle Bachelet, the Director for Latin America and the Caribbean of International IDEA, Dr Daniel Zovatto, and the member of the Advisory Board of International IDEA, Er Sergio Bitar, together with representatives of SEGPRES, officials of various Ministries, representatives of the diplomatic corps (especially International IDEA member countries) and international organizations, academics, representatives of civil society and the general public.

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President Bachelet and the Regional Director of International IDEA gave keynote addresses during the inauguration ceremony. During his speech, Dr Zovatto emphasized the unprecedented nature of the process of political reforms in Chile, noting that both globally and in Latin America, it is difficult to find a country whose political system has had the capacity to respond, in a timely and comprehensive manner, and in a short time of only two years, to such a complex and profound crisis with such a broad and deep reform agenda. In this regard, he highlighted the capacity of the Chilean political system (thanks to the leadership of President Bachelet and the maturity of its political actors and institutions) to turn a political crisis into an opportunity, which made it possible to produce substantive changes in matters as important as gender parity, a more transparent relationship between money and politics, the replacement of the binomial system by one of moderate proportional representation, the strengthening and modernization of political parties, and the vote of Chileans abroad, among many others reforms, all aimed at regaining confidence in politics, credibility in their institutions and in their political leaders.

According to the Regional Director, a preliminary evaluation of these reforms shows that they have made the politics in Chile more transparent and more competitive. In his opinion, these reforms helped to raise the standards of transparency within the political parties, while establishing a new regulation of the campaigns so that it is the ideas and not the money that determines the results of the elections. However, he cautioned that it would be too early to make a definitive evaluation, due to the short time elapsed since the launch of the same, while expressing concern about the steep fall in the level of electoral participation (the highest fall recorded in Latin America during the period 1990-2017). Hence, he emphasized the importance of closely following these reforms, to observe the way in which political actors and citizens are accommodating themselves to those reforms, with the aim of making the necessary adjustments in a timely manner.

In the final part of his presentation, Dr Zovatto thanked on behalf of the Secretary General of International IDEA, Mr Yves Leterme, the opportunity offered by the Government of Chile to International IDEA to participate in this unprecedented process of political reforms and reiterated the commitment of his institution to continue accompanying and supporting this process, with the objective of continuing to contribute to the improvement of the quality of democracy and the integrity of the electoral processes in Chile.

After the intervention of the Regional Director, it was the turn of President Bachelet who emphasized that one of the main objectives of the reform package promoted under her presidency was to generate greater transparency in political and electoral processes through better regulation of political parties, politicians and the financing of politics.

In general, the president expressed her satisfaction with the political reforms carried out, affirming that "The balance, in my opinion (and not only mine) is positive: today there is a much more just, pluralistic and open electoral competition, just as it has become clear in the recent elections. " However, she also said she agreed with Dr Zovatto's comments that there is still much to be done and progress in these matters, with a special effort to reduce the high number of abstention from voting that currently exists

After the opening ceremony, a panel was held to analyze the evaluation report on the Chilean political reforms 2014-2016 prepared by the Uruguayan political scientist, Prof Daniel Chasquetti, commissioned by International IDEA. In addition to Prof Chasquetti, the panel had participation of Ms Pamela Figueroa, Head of the Studies Division of the Ministry General Secretariat of the Presidency, Ms Paulina Veloso, former member of the Presidential Advisory Council against Conflicts of Interest Influence Peddling and Corruption and Counselor of the Council of Defense of the State, and Ms. Lorena Recabarren, the Executive Director of Horizontal and Vice-President of Evopoli.

During the seminar, the report "Political Reforms in Chile 2014-2016" was also presented, which analyzes the adoption process of the Chilean political reforms 2014-2016 and its main effects; work published jointly by SEGPRES and International IDEA.

The report can be found here.

More information on the seminar can be found here.

About the Author

Programme Officer
Khushbu Agrawal

Khushbu Agrawal is Programme Officer for the Latin America and the Caribbean region since 2017.