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Elections in Chile

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Title: Elections in Chile  
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Elections in Chile

This article is part of a series on the
politics and government of

Chile holds nationwide presidential, parliamentary, regional and municipal elections.

The electoral process is supervised by the Electoral Service (Servicio Electoral), which is independent from the government. Winners are officially proclaimed by the Election Qualifying Court (Tribunal Calificador de Elecciones), which is made up of four members of Chile's Supreme Court and one former legislator chosen by the Supreme Court.[1]


  • Schedule 1
    • Election 1.1
    • Inauguration 1.2
  • Electorate 2
  • Presidential elections 3
  • Parliamentary elections 4
    • Current electoral system 4.1
      • Criticism 4.1.1
    • Electoral system beginning in 2018 4.2
  • Municipal elections 5
  • Referendums 6
    • National 6.1
    • Communal 6.2
  • Regional elections 7
  • Primaries 8
    • Legal primaries 8.1
    • Non-legal primaries 8.2
      • Presidential 8.2.1
      • Parliamentary 8.2.2
      • Mayoral 8.2.3
  • Voting 9
  • Suffrage 10
  • Turnout 11
  • See also 12
  • References 13
  • External links 14



Position 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017
Type Municipal (28 October) Presidential and parliamentary primaries (30 June)
Presidential (17 November)
National Congress (17 November)
Regional Boards (17 November)
None Mayoral primaries (12 June)
Municipal (23 October)
Presidential and parliamentary primaries (2 July)
Presidential (19 November)
National Congress (19 November)
Regional Boards (19 November)
President None President None President
National Congress None Full Chamber and half of Senate None Full Chamber and half of Senate
Regions, provinces and municipalities Mayors and Councilors Regional Board None Mayors and Councilors Regional Board


Position 2012 2013 2014 2015 2016 2017 2018
Type Municipal None Presidential
National Congress
Regional Boards
None Municipal None Presidential
National Congress
Regional Boards
President None None 11 March None 11 March
National Congress None None 11 March None 11 March
Regions, provinces and municipalities 6 December None 11 March None 6 December None 11 March


All citizens of Chile as well as foreigners residing legally in Chile for at least five years, who are at least 18 years of age on the day of the election, are eligible to vote. Enrollment in Chile is automatic and voting is voluntary. Chileans are not allowed to vote overseas.[1] Before 2012 voting was compulsory for life for Chilean citizens who wished to enroll.

Presidential elections

Presidential elections elect a president, who serves as chief of state and head of government for a period of four years.[1] Perpetual non-consecutive reelection is permitted.[1]

The President is directly-elected nationwide by the absolute majority of the valid votes (excludes null votes and blank votes). If no candidate obtains such majority, a runoff election is held between the top two vote getters.[1] Before 1989, the president was confirmed by Congress if elected by a simple majority.

Each legally operating political party may register one of its members as candidate. Independent candidates are required to gain the support of a number of independent electors prior to registering their candidacy. The number of signatures needed is equal to at least 0.5% of the number of people who last voted in the Chamber of Deputies election, nation-wide.[2] For the 2013 election, the number was 36,318 signatures.[3]

According to the Constitution, presidential elections take place on the third Sunday of November of the year before the incumbent president's term expires. A runoff election —if necessary— takes place on the fourth Sunday following the election. The president is sworn in on the day the incumbent president's term expires.[1] Since 1990 that day has been March 11.

Before 2011 presidential elections took place 90 days before the incumbent president's term expired. If that day was not a Sunday, the election was moved to the next Sunday. A runoff election —if necessary— took place 30 days after the first election. The Sunday rule was also observed. Since 1990 the president has taken office on March 11; thus, elections took place on or after December 11 of the previous year.

Elections were last held on 17 November 2013, and are next scheduled to take place on 19 November 2017.

Parliamentary elections

Current electoral system

Chile's bicameral Congress consists of a Chamber of Deputies (lower house) and a Senate (upper house).[1] The country is divided into 60 electoral districts for the lower house and 19 senatorial constituencies for the Senate. (See Electoral divisions of Chile for details.) Each electoral district and senatorial constituency directly elects two representatives.[2] That is, 120 deputies and 38 senators, in total. Chile is the only country in the world with two-seat electoral districts nation-wide.[4]

Deputies serve for four years and senators for eight years. Both deputies and senators may seek reelection indefinitely. Half the Senate is renewed every four years.[1] In the first Senate after the restoration of democracy in 1990, senators from odd-numbered regions served for four years (1990-1994), while senators from even-numbered regions plus the Santiago Metropolitan Region served for eight years (1990-1998). The senators from odd-numbered regions elected in 1993 served the usual eight years (1994-2002).

The Constitution establishes that parliamentary elections will be held in conjunction with presidential elections.[1]

Candidates may register their candidacy with the backing of either a political party or of a group of citizens. In the former case, party affiliation is not mandatory for the candidates. In the latter case, candidates must not be affiliated with any political party and are required to collect a number of signatures. The signatures needed are at least 0.5% of the turnout of the last Chamber of Deputies election in that electoral district (if running for a lower-chamber seat) or last Senate election in that senatorial constituency (if running for a Senate seat), and they must come from independent electors.[2]

The law allows two or more political parties to ally one another to create "pacts". Pacts may present up to two candidates per electoral district or senatorial constituency. It is not mandatory for the candidates to be affiliated with any of the political parties forming the pact, but they cannot be affiliated with a political party outside the pact.[2]

Political parties not integrating a pact may present up to two candidates per electoral district or senatorial constituency. In this case, the candidates must be affiliated with that party.[2]

For every electoral district and senatorial constituency election the two political entities [either a) a pact, b) a political party not integrating a pact, or c) an independent candidate not integrating a pact] receiving the most votes are awarded one seat each, with the leading candidate within each entity taking the seat. To win both seats, the leading entity must out poll the second leading entity by a margin of at least 2-to-1.[2] This is a rare use of the d'Hondt method, with only two seats allocated per electoral division.[5][6]

Elections were last held on 17 November 2013, and are next scheduled to take place on 19 November 2017.


This binomial system was established by the military dictatorship that ruled the country until 1990, limiting the proportional system in place until 1973 to two seats per district/constituency. Gerrymandering was employed in the drawing of electoral districts to favor the rightist parties, with a positive bias towards the traditionally more conservative rural areas of the country. The vote/seat ratio was lower in districts which supported Pinochet in the 1988 plebiscite and higher in those where the opposition was strongest.[7] Also, in none of the newly created districts did either side in the aforementioned plebiscite outpoll the other by a margin of 2-to-1. The authoritarian regime also made it very difficult to change the system, as a three-fifths majority of both chambers is needed to modify it.[1]

Members of the Concert of Parties for Democracy believe the system undermine their majority in Congress, while overestimating the representation of the right.[8] The right views the system as necessary for the country's stability,[9][10] and to encourage the creation of large coalitions.[11] The left sees the system as undemocratic,[10] denying representation to candidates outside the two main coalitions.[4]

Electoral system beginning in 2018

A law reforming the electoral system was published in May 2015. It decreases the number of electoral districts to 28 (formed by merging current districts) as well as the number of senatorial constituencies to 15 (one for each region). Each electoral district elects between three and eight deputies, while each region elects between two and five senators. The D'Hondt Method will continue to be used for determining the winners. The number of lawmakers is increased in each chamber, to 155 in the lower chamber, and to 50 in the Senate. The new system will debut in the 2017 general elections.[12] Representatives elected under this new system will take their seats in March 2018.

Municipal elections

Municipal elections elect one mayor and a number of councilmen per municipality.[1] Mayors are elected by a simple majority, while councilmen seats (ranging from 6 to 10, depending on the number of registered voters in each municipality) are decided using a system of proportional representation,[13] similar to the d'Hondt method. Mayors and councilmen are elected in separate ballots since 2004. Indefinite reelection is allowed.[13]

The law establishes that municipal elections will take place every four years on the last Sunday of October. The newly elected authorities take office on December 6 of that same year.[13]

Elections were last held on 28 October 2012, and are next scheduled to take place on 30 October 2016.



The Constitution provides for binding referendums (plebiscito) only in the case a constitutional reform passed by Congress is completely vetoed by the President and then re-approved by Congress by a two-thirds majority of each chamber. In such occurrence the President has the authority to either sign the reform into law or call for a referendum.[1] To date, the President has not exercised such power.


The Constitution permits municipalities to organize binding referendums to resolve a number of local issues.[1] They can be called by the mayor with the approval of the council, by two-thirds of councilmen or by 10% of residents who voted in the last municipal election.[13]

To date, there has been one such referendum. It was celebrated in Peñalolén on 11 December 2011 to decide on a new zoning scheme for the commune.[14]

Regional elections

Note: This section is outdated. The regional boards were directly elected on 17 November 2013 for a period of four years starting on 11 March 2014.

Each region in Chile is governed by an Intendant (Intendente), who is appointed by the President of the Republic, assisted by a regional board, made up of a number of advisers (consejeros).

Advisers are elected by each region's municipal councilmen, who form electoral colleges per regional province. Each region is allotted two advisers per province plus 10 more in regions with up to 1 million inhabitants or 14 more in regions with over 1 million people. These additional advisers are apportioned to provinces in relation to their share of the regional population in the latest census using the d'Hondt method. The winners within each province are those who obtain the most votes. However, if within a province, two or more candidates decide to run together as a list, then the winners are decided using the d'Hondt method.[15]

Advisers serve four-year terms and can be reelected indefinitely. Elections take place 15 days after the councilmen take office. The newly elected advisers are sworn in 60 days after their election.[15] The last election took place on December 21, 2008 and the elected advisers took office on 19 February 2009.

In October 2009, the Constitution was modified to allow advisers to be directly elected by universal suffrage. Advisers will serve for four years with the possibility of reelection. The number of advisers will be proportional to the region's population and area in relation to the country.[1] The law regulating regional administrations has not been modified to reflect this change, so the date when the first such election will take place is uncertain.

In December 2012, a temporary article was added to the Constitution suspending the election that was to take place on 21 December 2012 and extending the mandate of the incumbent advisers to 11 March 2014. The same article states that the advisers's first direct election will take place on 17 November 2013 (to coincide with the presidential and parliamentary election), as long as the necessary changes to the law are published before 20 July 2013.[16]


Legal primaries

There is a system of government-run primaries to select candidates for president, deputy, senator and mayor. Primaries for president, deputy and senator are held concurrently.[17]

Primaries can take place within a single party or within a group of parties (a "pact"). Independent candidates may participate in primaries with the backing of a political party or a pact. Independents are barred from being candidates in primaries for Congress seats if the political party backing the candidate is not part of a pact. Political parties may form one pact for presidential primaries and another pact for parliamentary primaries. Political parties and pacts are free to choose whether to allow independent electors or electors affiliated with other political parties to vote in their primary. However, independent electors must be allowed to vote in a presidential primary that includes an independent candidate.[17]

According to the Constitution, primary results are legally binding for political parties using them; the losing candidates are ineligible for the same election in the respective office,[1] unless the winning candidate dies or resigns before the registration deadline.[17]

The law states that primaries take place on the twentieth Sunday before the election.[17] The first legal primaries took place on 30 June 2013 to select candidates for president and deputy.

Non-legal primaries


The Concertación coalition selected its candidate for President of the Republic via primaries in 1993, 1999 and 2009 (in 2005 they were canceled, after one of two contenders quit the race). The Juntos Podemos pact selected its presidential candidate in a primary in 2009.


Throughout 2013, the Concertación parties organized primaries to select some of their candidates for seats in Congress.


The Concertación organized primary elections on 1 April 2012 in over 40% of communes to select its candidates for mayor for the 28 October 2012 municipal election.[18][19]


Ballots used in the 2009 parliamentary and presidential elections.

For Chileans, a national identity card (current up to a year before the election) or current passport is the only document required to vote; foreigners must carry their identity cards to be able to vote. The vote is secret and in person.[1] Before voting, a voter must present an identity card or passport (which is retained during the process) to verify registration at that particular polling place, then must sign a registration book. The voter then receives the ballot or ballots (which are printed with all candidates' names, ballot numbers, and party affiliations) and enters a voting booth, where (using a provided graphite pencil) the voter must mark each choice by drawing a vertical line over a printed horizontal line next to the name of the chosen candidate (marking two or more choices nullifies the vote; a vote is considered "blank" when no candidate was correctly marked). Upon exiting the voting booth, the voter returns the ballots to the polling officer, who proceeds to remove the ballots' serial number. The voter then places the ballots inside the appropriate ballot boxes. Once this is done, the voter is given back his/her national identity card/passport.[2]

Most polling places are in schools or sporting centers. The armed forces and uniformed police (Carabineros) are in charge of providing security at these places before, during, and after the elections.[1] Since 2012, polling stations have been mixed-sex.[20]


The state of suffrage in Chile since 1833:

  • From 1833: Men over 25, if single, or 21, if married, able to read and write, and owning property or capital of a certain value fixed by law. (Art. 8 of the 1833 Constitution)a
  • From 1925: Men over 21 able to read and write. (Art. 7 of the 1925 Constitution)a
  • From 1934: Men over 21 able to read and write (general registry); women over 25 able to read and write (municipal registry, i.e. limited to local elections). (Law No. 5,357)
  • From 1949: Men and women over 21 able to read and write. (Law No. 9,292)
  • From 1970 until today: Men and women over 18. (Law No. 17,284 modifying Art. 7 of the 1925 Constitution; Art. 13 of the 1980 Constitution)

a The Constitution used the gender-ambiguous word chilenos which strictly means "Chilean men" but may also mean "Chilean people".


Election turnout since 1925.

Date Election VAP Registered % Turnout % T / VAP %
1925-10-24 President N/A 302,142 N/A N/A 86.4 N/A
1927-05-22 President N/A 328,700 N/A N/A 70.4 N/A
1931-10-04 President N/A 388,959 N/A N/A 73.5 N/A
1932-10-30 President N/A 464,879 N/A N/A 74.0 N/A
1938-10-25 President N/A 503,871 N/A N/A 88.1 N/A
1942-02-02 President N/A 581,486 N/A N/A 80.2 N/A
1946-09-04 President N/A 631,257 N/A N/A 75.9 N/A
1952-09-04 President 3,290,043 1,105,029 33.59 N/A 86.6 29.1
1953-03-01 Legislative 3,319,987 1,106,709 33.33 N/A 68.6 22.9
1957-03-03 Legislative 3,560,495 1,284,159 36.07 N/A 70.5 25.4
1958-09-04 President 3,649,924 1,497,902 41.04 N/A 83.5 34.3
1961-03-12 Legislative 3,815,496 1,858,980 48.72 N/A 74.5 36.3
1964-09-04 President 4,098,612 2,915,121 71.12 N/A 86.8 61.7
1965-03-14 Legislative 4,145,932 2,920,615 70.45 N/A 80.6 56.8
1969-03-16 Legislative 4,518,768 3,244,892 71.81 N/A 74.2 53.3
1970-09-04 President 5,200,790 3,539,747 68.06 2,954,799 83.47 56.81
1971-04-01 Municipal 5,200,790 3,792,682 2,835,412
1973-03-11 Legislative 5,514,216 4,509,559 81.78 3,687,105 81.8 66.9
1988-10-05 Plebiscite 8,193,683 7,435,913 90.75 7,251,933 97.53 88.51
1989-07-30 Plebiscite 8,344,555 7,556,613 90.56 7,082,084 93.72 84.87
1989-12-14 Chamber of Deputies 8,414,203 7,557,537 89.82 7,158,646 94.72 85.08
1989-12-14 Senate 8,414,203 7,557,537 89.82 7,158,442 94.72 85.08
1989-12-14 President 8,414,203 7,557,537 89.82 7,158,727 94.72 85.08
1992-06-28 Municipal 8,902,989 7,840,008 88.06 7,043,827 89.84 79.12
1993-12-11 Chamber of Deputies 9,172,608 8,085,439 88.15 7,385,016 91.34 80.51
1993-12-11 Senate N/A N/A N/A 2,045,681 N/A N/A
1993-12-11 President 9,172,608 8,085,439 88.15 7,387,709 91.37 80.54
1996-10-27 Municipal 9,670,815 8,073,368 83.48 7,079,418 87.69 73.20
1997-12-14 Chamber of Deputies 9,868,810 8,069,624 81.77 7,046,351 87.32 71.40
1997-12-14 Senate N/A N/A N/A 5,102,906 N/A N/A
1999-12-12 President 10,237,392 8,084,476 78.97 7,271,584 89.95 71.03
2000-01-16 President-Runoff 10,237,392 8,084,476 78.97 7,326,753 90.63 71.57
2000-10-29 Municipal 10,409,834 8,089,363 77.71 7,089,886 87.64 68.11
2001-12-16 Chamber of Deputies 10,640,846 8,075,446 75.89 7,034,292 87.11 66.11
2001-12-16 Senate N/A N/A N/A 1,975,017 N/A N/A
2004-10-31 Council people 11,233,815 8,012,065 71.32 6,874,315 85.80 61.19
2004-10-31 Mayors 11,233,815 8,012,065 71.32 6,872,675 85.78 61.18
2005-12-11 Chamber of Deputies 11,471,909 8,220,897 71.66 7,207,351 87.67 62.83
2005-12-11 Senate N/A 5,863,704 N/A 5,182,224 88.38 N/A
2005-12-11 President 11,471,909 8,220,897 71.66 7,207,278 87.67 62.83
2006-01-15 President-Runoff 11,471,909 8,220,897 71.66 7,162,345 87.12 62.43
2008-10-26 Council people 12,095,757 8,110,265 67.05 6,950,508 85.70 57.46
2008-10-26 Mayors 12,095,757 8,110,265 67.05 6,959,075 85.81 57.53
2009-12-13 Chamber of Deputies 12,345,729 8,285,186 67.11 7,263,537 87.67 58.83
2009-12-13 Senate N/A 2,392,477 N/A 2,053,480 85.83 N/A
2009-12-13 President 12,345,729 8,285,186 67.11 7,264,136 87.68 58.84
2010-01-17 President-Runoff 12,345,729 8,285,186 67.11 7,203,371 86.94 58.35
2012-10-28 Council people 12,953,120 13,404,084 103.48 5,770,423 43.05 44.55
2012-10-28 Mayors 12,953,120 13,404,084 103.48 5,790,617 43.20 44.70
2013-06-30 Presidential primaries 13,087,161 13,307,182a 101.68 3,010,890 22.63 23.01
2013-06-30 Lower-house primariesb N/A N/A N/A 300,839 N/A N/A
2013-11-17 Regional boards 13,160,122 13,573,143 103.14 6,685,333 49.25 50.80
2013-11-17 Chamber of Deputies 13,160,122 13,573,143 103.14 6,698,524 49.35 50.90
2013-11-17 Senate N/A N/A N/A 4,852,165 N/A N/A
2013-11-17 President 13,160,122 13,573,143 103.14 6,699,011 49.35 50.90
2013-12-15 President-Runoff 13,160,122 13,573,143 103.14 5,697,751 41.98 43.30

a Excludes 200,638 affiliates from non-participating political parties.
b Held in 10 out of 60 electoral districts.

  • ^ Voting Age Population: An estimation of the country's population over the age of 21 (1952-1969) and 18 (1970-2013) on the day of the election. Source: "Annual Population by Age - Both Sexes". World Population Prospects, the 2012 Revision. was applied to obtain the population for election day.Linear interpolation Note: The UN provides data estimated for July 1 of each year disaggregated by age.  
  • ^ Source: Electoral Service (1925-1973; 1988-2010; 2012; 2013).
  • ^ Source: Electoral Service (1925-1969 and 1973 as a percentage only; 1970;[21][22] 1988-2012; 2013 (primaries); 2013 (regional boards); 2013 (deputies); 2013 (Senate); 2013 (president)). Values for 1952-1969 and 1973 derived from columns 3, 4 and 7.
  • ^ Turnout as a percentage of the voting age population.

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q Political Constitution of the Republic of Chile. Chile Library of National Congress.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Organic Constitutional Law on Popular Elections and Vote Counting. Chile Library of National Congress.
  3. ^
  4. ^ a b Carey, John M (2009). "Ingeniería electoral: ¿qué nos muestran las investigaciones académicas sobre los efectos anticipados de las reformas electorales?" [Electoral engineering: What do academic research tell us about the anticipated effects of the electoral reforms?]. Fortalecimiento de la Democracia: Reforma del Sistema Electoral Chileno / Chapter 8 (in Spanish). p. 234. Retrieved 2011-12-25. 
  5. ^ Altman, David (2004). "Redibujando el Mapa Electoral Chileno: Incidencia de Factores Socioeconómicos y Género en las Urnas" (PDF). Revista de Ciencia Política / Vol. XXIV / Nº 2. Instituto de Ciencia Política,  
  6. ^ Fuentes S., Claudio and Marcela Ríos T. (January 2007). "Una reforma necesaria: Efectos del sistema binominal" [A necessary reform: Effects of the binomial system].  
  7. ^ Valenzuela, Arturo and Peter Siavelis (1991). "Ley electoral y estabilidad democrática: Un ejercicio de simulación para el caso de Chile" (PDF). Estudios Públicos Nº 43 (in Spanish). Santiago:  
  8. ^ Carey, John M. (2006). "Las virtudes del sistema binominal" [The Virtues of the Binomial System]. Revista de Ciencia Política / Vol. 26 / Nº 1 (in Spanish). Santiago. pp. 226–235.  
  9. ^ """Coloma defiende el sistema binominal: "Ha dado estabilidad a Chile. Retrieved 2011-10-27. 
  10. ^ a b "Chili : Système électoral". Observatoire Politique de l'Amérique latine et des Caraïbes de  
  11. ^ Siavelis, Peter (2004). "Sistema electoral, desintegración de coaliciones y democracia en Chile: ¿El fin de la Concertación?". Revista de Ciencia Política / Vol. XXIV / N° 1 (in Spanish). Santiago. pp. 58–80.  
  12. ^
  13. ^ a b c d Organic Constitutional Law on Municipalities. Chile Library of National Congress.
  14. ^ "Hoy se realiza primer plebiscito comunal vinculante del país en Peñalolén | Nacional". La Tercera. Retrieved 2012-02-01. 
  15. ^ a b Organic Constitutional Law on Regional Administration and Governance. Chile Library of National Congress.
  16. ^ Ley Nº 20.644
  17. ^ a b c d Law 20,640. Chile Library of National Congress.
  18. ^ "Primarias de la Concertación: Tohá y Pinto se convierten en las cartas municipales | Política". La Tercera. 2012-02-20. Retrieved 2012-06-21. 
  19. ^ "Primarias municipales de la Concertación se inician en 145 comunas del país". Retrieved 2012-06-21. 
  20. ^ Organic Constitutional Law on Election Enrollment System and Electoral Service. Chile Library of National Congress.
  21. ^ "El Partido Socialista de Chile Tomo II" (PDF). Julio César Jobet (in Spanish). p. 120. Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-10-25. Retrieved 2009-06-05. 
  22. ^ "B. El Congreso Nacional y la quiebra de un deber constitucional: el control del ejercicio constitucional de las funciones del presidente". Revista Chilena de Derecho Vol. 1, No. 3/4 (junio-agosto 1974), pp. 491-547 (in Spanish). p. 491. Retrieved 2013-09-23. 

External links

  • Archive of recent election results (Chilean Ministry of Interior)
  • Archive of past elections
  • Chile's Electoral Service (Servel)
  • Adam Carr's Election Archive
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