Polity of Chile

Since democracy was restored in 1990, Chile has enjoyed a period of remarkable political stability, in which it has drawn on strong democratic traditions that go back to the early nineteenth century (in fact, between 1830 and 1973, Chile had only two periods in which its constitutional continuity was interrupted-in 1891 and then in the years between 1924 and 1932, making it one of half a dozen countries in that category).

Three presidents (Patricio Aylwin 1990-1994; Eduardo Frei 1994-2000; and Ricardo Lagos 2000-2006) of the center-left Concertacin de Partidos por la Democracia have held office since 1990, while a conservative coalition-Alianza por Chile- sits in opposition. Whereas President Aylwin's term was largely dedicated to solidifying Chile's transition from a military regime to democratic rule, and President Frei's to the modernization of Chile's infrastructure, President Lagos's government has been marked mainly by the strong impetus it has given to Chile's integration into world markets, of which the FTA's signed with the United States and the European Union have been the most notable examples.

Political and economic rights are also guaranteed by an independent judiciary that is currently being modernized to further expedite access to justice. In 2003, a series of reforms designed to substantially reduce the number of political appointees in government service, creating a much more professional and independent public administration, were implemented. A law geared to regulating the financing of political campaigns and political parties was also approved, thus enhancing democratic transparency.

A key source of Chile's success lies in its innovative public policies. In the 1980s, Chile pioneered structural reforms in Latin America, setting up an emblematic private pension fund system that was later adopted in many other countries. Since 1990, ongoing privatizations, a public works concessions program in the form of Public-Private Partnerships (PPP) that has attracted U$ 6 billion in private investment in public works, additional tariff reductions, and -most recently-a far-reaching deregulation of the country's capital and financial markets, have taken this process even further.

Effective social policies have also been instrumental in reducing poverty, from 39% of the population to 21% in 2000. To strengthen the social safety net, the government has also set up an unemployment insurance scheme that became operational in 2002. The present government's agenda also includes a major overhaul of Chile's health system and an ongoing educational reform. Both programs are designed not only to improve productivity and increase Chile's competitiveness but-primarily-to ensure that the benefits of economic growth reach all Chileans.