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Chile - Elections 2005

Chile is a multiparty democracy with a population of approximately 16 million. In 2000 voters elected Ricardo Lagos of the Socialist Party as president in a free and fair runoff election. Lagos is a member of the center-left Concertacion coalition, which includes his Socialist Party, the Christian Democratic Party, the Party for Democracy (of which Lagos is also a member), and the Radical Social Democrat Party.

In presidential elections on 11 December 2005, Michelle Bachelet, a candidate from the Socialist Party, itself a part of the Concertacion coalition, and Alianza candidate Sebastian Pinera emerged as the top two vote-getters and moved on to a run-off election scheduled for January 15, 2006. Voters also elected 20 of the 38 senators and all 120 members of the Chamber of Deputies on December 11 in elections generally considered free and fair.

There were 15 women in the 120-seat Chamber of Deputies, 2 women in the 48 seat Senate, and 3 women in the 16-member cabinet. Indigenous people have the legal right to participate freely in the political process, but relatively few were ac tive. No members of the legislature acknowledged indigenous descent.

Civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces. In August 2005 the congress ratified constitutional reforms abolishing provisions of the 1980 constitution (promulgated by the Pinochet regime) that limited the president's right to remove the commanders-in-chief of the three armed services and the Carabineros. The reforms also eliminated all nonelected senatorial posts effective March 2006, reduced the presidential term from six to four years with no consecu tive terms, and made the National Security Council a purely advisory body. The new provisions went into effect in September.

In the wake of the constitutional reforms of August 2005 which abolished the seats reserved for non-elected senators (See note) parliamentary elections were held in parallel with the presidential election on 11 December 2005. At stake were all 120 seats for the Chamber of Deputies and 20 of the 38 seats in the new Senate. This included the seat vacated by former Christian Democrat senator Jorge Lavandero. The nine seats reserved for appointed members as well as the lifetime senatorial appointment held by the former president of the Republic were abolished thus reducing the number of Senate seats from 48 to 38.

In the previous elections held in 2001 the ruling center-left Coalition for Democracy (CPD) composed of the Socialist Party (PS) the Christian-Democratic Party of Chile (PDC) the Party for Democracy (PPD) and the Radical Social-Democratic Party (PRSD) won 62 of 120 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 9 of 18 renewed seats in the Senate. The coalition first came to power in 1990. Its main rival the centre-right Alliance for Chile (APC) composed of the Independent Democratic Union (UDI) and the National Renovation Party (RN) won 57 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 9 of the 18 renewed seats in the Senate.

The main issues at the 2005 elections were how to deal with crime unemployment health education and poverty. One of the leading presidential candidates former PS defence minister Michelle Bachelet vowed to implement greater regional trade integration and a better social security and pension system. Her main rival billionaire and former senator Sebastián Piñera of the RN pledged to modernize the national police force and introduce tough policies on crime. He distanced himself from his partner in the APC coalition Joaquin Lavín leader of the Independent Democratic Union (UDI). The latter was also a presidential candidate. He had narrowly come second to Ricardo Lagos in the country's first presidential run-off in 1999. The UDI promised to create one million new jobs by 2011 and combat poverty and inflation.

There were 8.2 million registered voters in the country of 16.2 million inhabitants. As voting is compulsory turnout has been traditionally high. It stood at 86 per cent (Chamber of Deputies) and 87 percent (Senate) in the 2005 elections.

The CPD fared well in both polls. It obtained the majority in both chambers of parliament for the first time since the return of democracy in 1990 winning 11 of the 20 renewed seats in the Senate. It thereby increased its number of seats to 20 out of 38. In the Chamber of Deputies it secured 65 of the 120 seats including two independents allied to it. The number of seats going to the Alliance for Chile (APC) and allied independents was reduced to 54 in the Chamber of Deputies and 17 in the Senate. One remaining seat in each chamber went to independent candidates.

In the presidential run-offs held on 15 January 2006 the CPD candidate Ms. Michelle Bachelet secured 53.5 per cent of the poll becoming Chile's first woman president. The new National Congress convened on 11 March 2006 and elected Antonio Leal as President of the Chamber of Deputies and Eduardo Frei Ruiz Tagle as President of the Senate.

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Page last modified: 26-03-2020 18:53:07 ZULU