Local Democracy and the Transformation of Popular Participation in Chile


  • Paul W. Posner


Structural reforms, institutional arrangements, and the dominant mode of political party-base linkage all militate against effective popular participation in Chilean local democracy. Structural reforms have constrained local leaders' resources as well as their policymaking prerogatives; institutional arrangements limit public officials' accountability to their constituents and citizens' opportunities for input in decisionmaking. The parties of the center-left Concertación have reinforced this vicious cycle by pursuing a mode of linkage with civil society designed to promote their electoral success with only minimal organization and participation by their grassroots constituents. Such conditions fit well with the desire of elites of the Concertación and the right to depoliticize civil society in order to preserve macroeconomic and political stability. Yet they leave in doubt the efficacy of popular participation and the strength of local democracy in Chile.