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Open Access Publications from the University of California

The Bachelet Administration: The Normalization of Politics?


This paper argues that the strengths of Chile’s model transition have turned into the weaknesses of its post-transition democracy. These weaknesses have become particularly apparent during the Bachelet administration. While the Bachelet government has undoubtedly suffered from leadership issues and poor judgement, we argue that an excessive focus on these issues has obscured some of the, perhaps more important, root causes of the difficulties of the Bachelet government. We argue that the governing coalition continues to rely on a model of elite politics developed during the democratic transition, which while initially successful, is counterproductive during the current period of democratic consolidation. This means that the very strengths of Chile’s transition have now turned into the weaknesses of the country’s post-transition status quo. Furthermore, the concomitant development of a normalized pattern of democratic politics among the Chilean public without significant change in elite politics has created a lack of congruence at the elite and popular levels, as well as within the elite, which explain some of the deeper reasons why the Bachelet government has experienced so many difficulties.

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