When the Plebiscite is activated, citizens engage in direct democratic participation to enact or strike down proposed Constitutional reforms. This was first activated in 1988 with a vote on whether General Pinochet should serve another 8 years as the leader of Chile.
Problems and Purpose
The purpose of the Chilean Plebiscite is to allow direct democratic participation by citizens where they are allowed a voice on key Constitutional issues. The reign of Pinochet presented many problems for Chile, primarily extreme violence and repression. This system was designed in order to address this issue of dictatorship in Chile and usher in a direct vote on whether Pinochet should remain in power. 
Background History and Context
The 17 years of Pinochet control were filled with violence and hardline policies.  Three thousand people were either executed or disappeared during Pinochet’s control, while around 28,000 people were tortured.  While this era did usher in economic growth, income inequality did not improve.  Tensions mounted in Chile, resulting in the first Plebiscite in 1988 where the Chilean people rejected Pinochet’s continued rule and opted for free presidential elections.  The Plebiscite has resulted in very strong effects on current Chilean politics and was last used in 2020.  However, this particular 1988 Chilean Plebiscite lasted from activation in 1988 to concession of defeat by Pinochet.
Organizing, Supporting, and Funding Entities
In the late 1980’s, the “Concertacion por el No” opposition coalition was formed.  This coalition was composed of center left and leftist political parties including the Socialist Party and Christian Democratic Party.  The coalition campaigned heavily for a “No Vote” on whether Pinochet should serve another 8 years.  In 1988, the junta put forward Pinochet as the presidential candidate for approval or disapproval before the Chilean people.  The military was used heavily in the guarding of polling places; however, poll watchers also played a very strong role.  The interactions at polling places between military members, poll workers, and voters were relatively stable and peaceful. 
Furthermore, the media did play an increasing role in the 1988 Plebiscite, as media became more open to reporting on the election and opposition parties. While regulated and tinged with slight pro-government bias, non-government run reporting entities gradually became able to air opposition-oriented campaign coverage.  Notably, the United States did back the referendum campaign, after previously supporting Pinochet through much of the 1970’s and 1980’s. 
Participant Recruitment and Selection
For the upcoming vote on whether Pinochet would remain the leader of Chile, the “Concertacion por el No” coalition engaged in a variety of outreach activities. For example, the Concertacion engaged in voter registration, publicized information to voters about the upcoming Plebiscite, and acted as a force of accountability through election oversight.  A massive nationwide voter registration effort was also led by the Crusade for Citizen Participation which focused on registering urban youth. This organization in particular organized and recruited new voters for the “No Vote” campaign.  At the time of the 1988 Plebiscite, Chile used a voluntary voter registration system.  Furthermore, the role of media reporting on the election increased the closer the days came to the Plebiscite and the opposition was granted 15-minute daily video slots to campaign.  However, most media reporting was still favorable to Pinochet and backers of the current government greatly outspent the opposition. 
Methods and Tools Used
The Plebiscite was a national referendum in which the Chilean people either voted “Yes” or “No” on whether Pinochet should rule for another 8 years as the president of Chile. This voting system represented a form of direct democracy. However, upon defeat Pinochet was to declare an open presidential election in 1989 and step down from power peacefully.  Another method was community organizing.
Under Constitutional direction, the leaders of the army, navy, air force, and national police were required to set the date for the Plebiscite and name the candidate of the military government. This all had to be done before December 11th, 1988.  In the next thirty to sixty days from the date set by the military government, the Plebiscite was to be held. If the “No” campaign was victorious, the defeated military government would still rule until March 11th of 1990. In December, free and fair elections were to be held for the President and Congress. However, if Pinochet and the “Yes” campaign were victorious, they were to rule another eight years in power. 
The composition of the Chilean Plebiscite is very complex in that it contained many components that were strict and authoritarian, while also containing many democratic procedures.  The focus of the voting system was on fairness.  Notably, dissent and campaigning by the “No” campaign was heavily controlled before the vote, however the voting procedure in the election was overall very democratic in composition. 
What Went On: Process, Interaction, and Participation
In terms of participation, two key academic concepts of citizen participation are heavily related to the 1988 Chilean Plebiscite and future Chilean Presidential elections. First, the concept of “sustained participation” coined by Nabatchi and Leighninger  has been achieved in Chile. After the Plebiscite in 1988, there has been steady and consistent participation in future presidential elections.  The participatory actions of the 1988 Plebiscite also reflected a large degree of “thick participation,” which is more labor intensive than traditional “thin participation.”  This can be seen in intense community organizing among the “No Campaign,” strong election oversight, and other methods used by the “No Campaign.”  The way in which Chileans participate in democracy was changed dramatically during the 1988 Plebiscite and in the wake of it going into the future.
During the 1988 Chilean Plebiscite, Chilean political participation via direct democracy skyrocketed. For example, in 1988, more than 7,100,000 citizens in Chile voted.  Furthermore, over 90% of the voting-age population in 1988 registered to vote and voter turnout stood at an extremely large 97%.  This direct democratic participation led to 55% of voters rejecting the reign of Pinochet and spurred a transformation into an era of democracy.  Furthermore, the transfer of power in Chile was relatively peaceful as Chile ushered in a relatively non-violent transfer to democratic rule after the dictatorship was defeated in the Plebiscite. 
During the election, interactions between military officials, poll workers, and voters were relatively peaceful.  However, after initial defeat Pinochet was not graceful and at first stated he would not be leaving power.  While the vote totals were clearly in favor of “No,” Pinochet asked members of the junta and military officials to attempt to overturn the results. After refusal by many members, Pinochet eventually conceded. After the initial Plebiscite, Chile voted to adopt a civilian government and democracy. 
Influence, Outcomes, and Effects
The initial impact on presidential turnout and democratic participation was profound as voter turnout stood at 97% and 90% of Chilean’s that met voting-age requirements were registered to vote.  The goals of the Concertacion por el No” coalition were met as the 1988 Plebiscite resulted in Pinochet leaving power in 1990. The Plebiscite also helped Chile reach the ultimate goal of a transition to a more balanced democracy.  A strong component that propelled the “No” campaign to victory was voting by persons who lived in close proximity to military bases. Citizens with closer proximity to military bases experienced more repression and provided greater opposition to Pinochet in the 1988 Plebiscite. 
Modern research has suggested that the 1988 Plebiscite resulted in boosted presidential turnout in recent years. The effect of the initial 1988 Plebiscite and its democratic engagement efforts can still be seen in political turnout today. In other elections, the impact has not been as profound.  This has clearly promoted what Nabatchi and Leighninger coined “sustained participation,” in which participation is not only temporary.  Furthermore, participation in the Plebiscite has been noted to result in a leftward move in Chilean politics.  The effects of the Chilean Plebiscite on democratic participation and electoral politics obviously still linger.
Analysis and Lessons Learned
This case study has offered multiple critical lessons to be learned. First, direct democratic participation has a profound effect on voter turnout, especially in Chile in the form of a Plebiscite.  This can be seen in the 98% rate of voter turnout in Chile in 1988 and the huge increase in voter registration.  Second, the Plebiscite system appears to be effective in enhancing Chilean democracy. The Plebiscite system led to such an increase in democratic engagement and rid of an authoritarian regime. It is an effective means for promoting Chilean democracy.  Lastly, increased political engagement has the potential to result in a leftward swing in Chilean politics.  If other nations in Latin America adopt a similar system that increases democratic participation, perhaps there could be a leftward shift in Latin American politics.
Direct Democracy https://participedia.net/method/191
 Engel, E., & Venetoulias, A. (1992). The Chilean Plebiscite: Projections without Historic Data. Journal of the American Statistical Association, 87(420), 933-941. doi:10.1080/01621459.1992.10476247
 The Washington Post. (2000). Pinochet's Chile. https://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/inatl/longterm/pinochet/overview.htm
 McCarthy, J. (2006).. A Dictator's Legacy of Economic Growth. Retrieved from https://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=6069233
 Bonnefoy, P. (2020). 'An End to the Chapter of Dictatorship': Chileans Vote to Draft a New Constitution. https://www.nytimes.com/2020/10/25/world/americas/chile-constitution-plebiscite.html
 Chile: Information on "Comando para el No". (1989). https://www.refworld.org/docid/3ae6abb66.html
 Huneeus, C. (2010). The Defeat of the Concertación Coalition and the Alternation of Power in Chile (ARI). http://www.realinstitutoelcano.org/wps/portal/rielcano_en/contenido?WCM_GLOBAL_CONTEXT=%2Felcano%2Felcano_in%2Fzonas_in%2Flatin+america%2Fari23-2010
 Christian, S. (1988). Plebiscite in Chile: Opposition Cautiously Hopeful. https://www.nytimes.com/1988/09/02/world/plebiscite-in-chile-opposition-cautiously-hopeful.html
 Kaplan, E., Saltiel, F., & Urzúa, S. (2019). Voting for Democracy: Chile's Plebiscito and the Electoral Participation of a Generation. National Bureau of Economic Research. doi:10.3386/w26440
 British Broadcasting Corporation. (2013). Chile's Gen Pinochet 'tried to cling to power' in 1988. https://www.bbc.com/news/world-latin-america-21563384
 Bassuener, K., (2013). The Fall and Rise of Chilean Democracy: 1973-1989. http://www.democratizationpolicy.org/pdf/DiplomatsHandbookCS10.pdf
 Zinser, A. A., Angell, A., Cavarozzi, M., Drake, P., Winn, P., Valenzuela, A., . . . Gill, F. (n.d.). The Chilean Plebiscite: A First Step Toward Redemocratization. International Commission of the Latin American Studies Association to Observe the Chilean Plebiscite.
 Robinson, E. (1988). Chile’s Pinochet Beaten in Plebiscite on Rule. The Washington Post. https://www.washingtonpost.com/archive/politics/1988/10/06/chiles-pinochet-beaten-in- plebiscite-on-rule/cbc2e773-f1cc-4c37-bcb5-91b9de1e8084/
 Kurdyuk, K. (2019). Longread: The “No” Plebiscite That Finished Pinochet. Chile Today. https://chiletoday.cl/longread-the-no-plebiscite-that-finished-pinochet/
 Nabatchi, T., & Leighninger, M. (2015). Good or Bad? Charming or Tedious? Understanding Public Participation. In Public participation for 21st century democracy (pp. 13–44). John Wiley & Sons.
 Bautista, M. A., González, F., Martinez, L., Munoz, P., & Prem, M. (2019). The Geography of Dictatorship and Support for Democracy. SSRN Electronic Journal. doi:10.2139/ssrn.3435816
The original submission of this case study in the Participedia database was conducted by Dylan Lofton, a Master of Public Service candidate at the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service. The views and opinions that are stated in the current version of the case study are the views and opinions of the authors, editors, and cited sources. These views are not necessarily the views held by the University of Arkansas Clinton School of Public Service.