Delegative presidencies have not been a problem in post-Pinochet Chile, but the rise of mass protest movements suggests that the country’s new democracy has gone too far in the direction of demobilizing society.
The left-right ideological divide has begun to narrow in Latin America as citizens and leaders increasingly choose a pragmatic approach to politics and embrace the rules of the democratic game.
For the first time since the fall of Pinochet, the Chilean right has come to power via free elections. The long-ruling center-left coalition leaves behind many achievements, but also disturbing signs of a weakened party system.
Where indigenous peoples constitute a smaller share of the electorate, their recent inclusion denotes a more generalized opening of the political system to excluded and vulnerable sectors of society.
Chile's new Socialist president Michelle Bachelet will seek to maintain the country's socioeconomic progress, but her attempt to cure growing alienation from the traditional parties could create a new set of problems.
Lavín's strong showing did not represent an "earthquake" or a dramatic change in the electoral landscape. Voting patterns have remained basically unchanged since 1988, giving Lagos a clear mandate to lead Chile into the next millennium.
The unexpectedly strong showing of media-savvy rightist candidate Joaquín Lavín in the 1999 presidential elections and the move to the center by Concertación candidate Ricardo Lagos suggest that Chile has begun to put the ghosts of Allende and Pinochet to rest.