Christian Democratic Party (PDC)
Christian Democratic Party (PDC)
The Chilean Christian Democratic Party (Partido Demócrata Cristiano; PDC) traces its roots to a movement led by Catholic youth groups associated with the Conservative Party who had become increasingly alienated by what they perceived as their party's lack of social consciousness. Basing their ideas on the principles outlined in the papal encyclicals Rerum Novarum (1891) and Quadragesimo Anno (1931), which set down the foundations for Christian humanism, these students formed the Falange Nacional (National Falangist Party) and formally broke from the Conservative Party in 1938. The Falangists merged with the Social Christian Conservative Party to formally found the Christian Democratic Party on 28 July 1957. The PDC's ideology advocates a so-called third way between unbridled capitalism and socialism. It professes a conservative, Catholic-based doctrine on social issues such as divorce, abortion, and homosexuality, yet supports limited state intervention in the economy and progressive policies on poverty and income distribution.
The PDC has been one of the dominant political parties in Chile since the mid-1950s. Its meteoric rise to power culminated in the election of the first PDC president, Eduardo Frei Montalva, in 1964. Frei initiated a program of agrarian reform, public works, and social reform. Frei's personal popularity failed to translate into support for PDC candidate Radomiro Tomic in the 1970 elections, when Socialist Salvador Allende won the presidency with a plurality of the vote, though lacking a majority in congress. The polarization, instability, and deadlock that followed prompted military intervention, inaugurating the brutal seventeen-year military regime of Augusto Pinochet, who seized power in a military coup on 11 September 1973. Though initially attempting to work out a peaceful solution to the conflicts of the 1970s, ultimately the PDC's leadership backed military intervention, never expecting the military to stay in power so long, or to engage in such extensive human rights abuses.
Despite its initial support for military intervention, the PDC rather quickly began to oppose military rule. The party was legally proscribed in 1977, but remained active in opposition, playing a crucial role in the democratic transition. In the period leading up to the return to democracy in 1990, the PDC reemerged as one of Chile's most important parties, playing a key role in building the Concertación de Partidos por el No (Coalition of Parties for the No) to campaign against Pinochet's bid to remain in power in a 1988 plebiscite. After victory in the plebiscite, the Concertación evolved into the Coalition of Parties for Democracy (Concertación de Partidos por la Democracia), an alliance of parties that also included the Socialist Party, the Party for Democracy, and a few smaller parties that has ruled Chile since the return of democratic rule. Two Christian Democrats served consecutive terms as presidents in the immediate post-authoritarian period (Patricio Aylwin from 1990 to 1994, and Frei Montalva's son, Eduardo Frei Ruiz-Tagle, from 1994 to 2000). Though Socialists have ruled Chile since 2000 (Ricardo Lagos from 2000 to 2006 and Michele Bachelet, who assumed power in 2006), the Christian Democrats have retained important leadership roles in the coalition, serving as ministers in the Concertación's multiparty cabinets.
The party is as of 2007 led by Soledad Alvear, who was defeated by Michele Bachelet in the internal Concertación primary to choose the alliance's candidate for the 2005 presidential elections. In legislative terms, at the return to democracy in 1990 the PDC had the largest contingent in the Chamber of Deputies (38 of 120 members). Though still one of Chile's most important parties, its fortunes waned in the early twenty-first century and for the 2006–2010 legislature it held only 21 of 120 seats.
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Peter M. Siavelis