Chile’s political parties have generally been divided into three blocs of the right, the center, and the left. In 1973 the military government crushed and banned leftist parties and ordered others to suspend activity, declaring them to be in “indefinite recess.” From 1977 to 1987 all parties were banned.
Political parties were again legalized in 1987. However, the law was devised to defeat parties of the center and left and to enable the military and its civilian allies to control the electoral process and the governments it produced.
Ironically, some of the party registration requirements forced party leaders to organize strong local bases and probably strengthened the forces of the center-left coalition. In addition, district boundaries were redrawn to favor those areas, particularly rural ones, where conservative and pro-military forces were stronger. Despite these handicaps, the process of transition maintained a remarkably steady course and virtually replaced the party system that had been violently dissolved in 1973. Party alignments and voting constituencies split once again into relatively even and stable blocs of right, center, and left.
Two important changes emerged after the restoration of political parties.
The center and left maintained a strategic alliance in which the center was dominant, and the right became divided early on over the appropriate degree of proximity to maintain to the Pinochet regime. In the 2001 legislative elections the center-left coalition Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia (Coalition of Parties for Democracy) was victorious, winning 62 seats in the Chamber of Deputies. The center-right coalition Alianza por Chile (Alliance for Chile) won 57 seats.
Social welfare legislation was first enacted in the 1920s, and by the early 1970s the country’s welfare program ranked as one of the most extensive in the world. After the 1973 coup, the military government abandoned or dismantled much of the social welfare system. In 1981 a new social security system displaced the state-run system that had been in place since 1952. The new system, privately administered but government regulated, was based on the notion of individual capitalization accounts similar to a private insurance policy. Contributions amounting to 10 to 15 percent of earnings are obligatory, and the government guarantees a minimum benefit to contributors. The majority of the people receive free medical care under the National Health Service.
Military service of one year in the army or two years in the navy or air force is compulsory in Chile for all able-bodied 18- or 19-year-old men. In 2006 the country’s military force of 75,698 people was distributed as follows: 47,700 in the army; 19,398 in the navy; and 8,600 in the air force. "Chile" © Emmanuel BUCHOT, Encarta, Wikipedia
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