Although Chile is a relatively small country, writings about the Chilean party systems have long been better and more voluminous than is the case with most party systems in Latin America. Several orthodoxies have emerged in this literature: that Chilean parties are strong, that the party systems have been divided into three roughly equal parts, and that they have been relatively stable. The purpose of this article is to challenge these three orthodoxies. These orthodoxies are not completely wrong, but they need to be qualified. The dominant view that Chilean parties are strong has been overstated. They have been strong in some respects and for some periods, but not in others. Parties have traditionally dominated mechanisms of representation in Chile's democratic periods, overshadowing unions, social movements, and other forms of representation. Party penetration in the electorate, however, has not been powerful. Parties have appeared and disappeared with frequency, and most parties have been relatively weak organisationally. More so than is the case in Uruguay, Venezuela from 1958 until the 1990s, Costa Rica or most of Western Europe, Chile's democratic periods have allowed space for anti-party populists to develop successful political careers, including capturing the presidency.