Politics of Argentina

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Julio A. Roca monument in Buenos Aires, Argentina

The politics of Argentina takes place in the framework of what the Constitution defines as a federal presidential representative democratic Republic, where the President of Argentina is both Head of State and Head of Government. Legislative power is vested in both the President and the two chambers of the Argentine National Congress. The Judiciary is independent of the Executive and the Legislature. Elections take place regularly on a multi-party system.

Government structure[edit]

Executive branch[edit]

The current Chief of State and Head of Government is President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner.

Legislative branch[edit]

Legislative Branch is a bicameral Congress, which consists of the Senate (72 seats), presided by the Vice-President, and the Chamber of Deputies (257 seats, currently presided by Eduardo Fellner of the Province of Jujuy). The General Auditing Office of the Nation and the Ombudsman are also part of this branch.

Judiciary branch[edit]

The Judiciary Branch is composed of federal judges and others with different jurisdictions, and a Supreme Court with nine members, appointed by the President with approval of the Senate, who may be deposed by Congress. Two posts are currently vacant.

History[edit]

As of 1913 Argentina operates as a representative democracy. Since the 1930s, however, coups d'état have disrupted this democracy. After World War II and Juan Perón's presidency, recurring economic and institutional crises fostered the rise of military regimes.

Law 8871, or the Sáenz Peña Law of 1912 established universal, secret and obligatory male suffrage. This marked the moment when the middle classes entered government, displacing the landowning elite. Female suffrage came in 1947, under Perón.

Jorge Rafael Videla's dictatorship began in 1976 but fell into decline in 1982 after a defeat in the Falklands War (Spanish: Guerra de las Malvinas/Guerra del Atlántico Sur, 1982), and ended in 1983 with the democratic election of President Raúl Alfonsín of the Radical Civic Union party (UCR). Alfonsín faced significant challenges, including a military uprising, and resigned in 1989, six months before the end of his term, but the country was not in clear danger of becoming subject to a dictatorship again. Carlos Menem of the Justicialist Party (Peronist) served as president for ten years (1989-1999) and made a pact with Alfonsín in order to achieve a 1994 constitutional reform that would allow him to be re-elected. Following a neoliberal program, he ruled until 1999, and then Fernando de la Rúa of the Alianza, led by the UCR, won election. This marked the first time in decades that an Argentine president properly finished his term and passed on his charge to another democratically elected president.

De la Rúa, however, could not manage an economic crisis and finally resigned on December 21, 2001, amid violent riots. Several short-lived interim presidents came and went until Congress chose Eduardo Duhalde of the Justicialist Party (Peronist) to rule until some sort of social and economic peace could be restored. Duhalde took care of the most critical matters and called for democratic elections, which Néstor Kirchner of the Justicialist Party won (in the first use of the ballotage system). Kirchner took office on 25 May 2003. In December 2007 he stepped down to allow his wife Cristina Fernández de Kirchner to win election in his place.

Political parties and elections[edit]

For other political parties see List of political parties in Argentina. An overview on elections and election results is included in Elections in Argentina.

Representatives are elected by compulsory voting to the Argentine National Congress by party-list proportional representation.

Political parties[edit]

Argentina's two largest political parties are the Justicialist Party (Partido Justicialista, PJ), which evolved out of Juan Perón's efforts in the 1940s to expand the role of labor in the political process (see Peronism), and the Radical Civic Union (Unión Cívica Radical, UCR), founded in 1891. Traditionally, the UCR had more urban middle-class support and the PJ more labor support, but as of 2011 both parties are broadly based. Most of the numerous political parties that emerged in the past two decades have their origins or even the bulk of their identity tied to them.

Smaller parties occupy various positions on the political spectrum and a number of them operate only in certain districts. In the years after Perón's first years in office, several provincial parties emerged, often as a vehicle for the continued activities of Peronists, whose party was now banned, or as coalitions of politicians from all sectors wishing to take forward provincial interests. Provincial parties grew in popularity and number after the return of democracy in 1983, and took several of the provincial governor positions. Both these parties and the provincial branches of the UCR and PJ have frequently been dominated by modern caudillos and family dynasties, such as the Sapags of Neuquén and the Rodríguez Saá's of San Luis. This has in turn been a factor in the ongoing factionalism within the two principal parties at national and local levels.

Historically, the organized labor (largely tied to the Justicialist Party) and the armed forces have also played significant roles in national life. Labor's political power was significantly weakened by free market reforms during the 1990s, as well as the cooptation of its leaders by the Menem administration. They now seem to be returning to their former position, since the current government focuses on a productive model with local industry as one of the top priorities.

The armed forces are firmly under civilian control. Repudiated by the public after a period of military rule marked by human rights violations, economic decline, and military defeat, the Argentine military today is a downsized, volunteer force focused largely on international peacekeeping. While Menem and de la Rúa simply reduced their funding, Kirchner has effected an "ideological cleansing", removing a large portion of the top ranks and replacing them with younger leaders with an explicit commitment to preserve human rights and submit to the decisions of the civilian government.

A grouping of left-leaning parties and dissident Peronists –the Front for a Country in Solidarity (Frente por un País Solidario, FREPASO)– emerged in the 1990s as a serious third party, coming second in the 1995 Presidential elections. In August 1997 the UCR and FREPASO joined in a coalition called Alliance for Work, Justice and Education (informally Alianza, Alliance). The Alliance succeeded in taking Fernando de la Rúa (UCR) to the presidency in 1999, with Carlos Chacho Álvarez (FrePaSo) as Vice President. Shortly after, in October 2000 Álvarez resigned after a scandal related to presidential bribes in the Senate (the President's party refused to support or investigate the accusations), so the Alliance (and even the FrePaSo) effectively broke down. Moreover, in the midst of serious economic crisis and riots, President Fernando de la Rúa resigned on December 21, 2001, leaving the UCR reputation severely damaged. The centennial party lost many of its supporters and a bunch of smaller parties emerged from its ashes.

Two of them scored well in the 2003 presidential election: Support for an Egalitarian Republic (ARI), formed on the initiative of Deputy Elisa Carrió, presented itself as a non-compromising front against corruption and for progressive ideas. ARI somewhat took the center left positions of the defunct Alliance in the ideological spectrum. In those elections, Carrió came a close fourth in. However, her influence diminished afterwards, as the Néstor Kirchner administration -running on center left policies- succeeded, and she took a more conservative stance, eventually dividing her party and founding a new alliance, the Civic Coalition. In June 2007, Fabiana Ríos, a National Deputy enrolled in ARI, was elected Governor of the Province of Tierra del Fuego, becoming the first governor belonging to this party.

The other splinter UCR party, called Recrear, was led by former De la Rúa Minister of Economy Ricardo López Murphy. Recrear captured the urban moderate right-wing spectrum of voters. López Murphy came third in the 2003 presidential elections, with a platform that emphasized transparency, polarizing with former President Carlos Menem. After meagre results for his 2005 senatorial candidacy, and ahead of the 2007 elections, he joined a group of Province-based parties and Macri's Commitment to Change in a new centre-right coalition dubbed Republican Proposal (Propuesta Republicana, PRO). On that ticket, Macri was elected Chief of government of Buenos Aires Autonomous City.

Since the 2008 agricultural sector strikes, political support for President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner and her husband, ex-president Néstor Kirchner, diminished considerably. The tax on agricultural exports divided the National Congress as much as the public opinion. On 27 July 2008, the tax reform was put down by a votation at the Senate, which came to be decided by the vote of Vice President Julio Cobos, effectively breaking the governmental coalition Plural Consensus. Since then, a fraction of dissident peronists allied with conservative PRO, Julio Cobos -through Federal Consensus (ConFe)- started negotiations with his former party, UCR. The Radical Civic Union, in turn, formalized an alliance with the Socialist Party and Elisa Carrió's Civic Coalition, styled the Civic and Social Agreement (Acuerdo Cívico y Social, ACyS).

For the 2009 legislative elections, former President Kirchner ran himself as a candidate to National Deputy on top of the Front for Victory (Frente para la Victoria, FPV) party in the Province of Buenos Aires.

Latest legislative election results[edit]

e • d Summary of the 28 June 2009 Argentine National Congress election results
Coalitions and parties Chamber of Deputies of the Nation:
127 out of 257 seats
Senate of the Nation:
24 out of 72 seats
Votes % Deputies Votes % Senators
Justicialist Party 2,778,326 14.50% 19
Front for Victory 1,679,084 8.80% 14
Justicialist Front 415,404 2.20% 6 -
Others 1,018,515 5.30% 8 -
Total Kirchnerism (Left-wing peronism) 5,891,330 30.80% 47 8
Civic and Social Agreement 3,794,853 19.80% 28 -
Radical Civic Union 639,818 3.30% 4 -
Front for Everyone 381,067 2.00% 3 -
Others 734,009 3.84% 6
Total Civic and Social Agreement (Radicalism center-left) 5,549.,747 28.94% 41 14
Republican Proposal (Liberal-conservatism and
right-wing factions opposed to Kirchner)
3,391,391 17.70% 20 0
Proyecto Sur 437,634 2.30% 4
New Encounter 402,502 2.10% 2
Others 255,566 1.30% -
Total Left-wing (Socialism) 1,092,702 5.70% 6 0
Others parties 3,208,917 16.77% 13 2
Total 19,134,087   127 24'
Registered voters 27,797,930
Votes cast 20,123,715
Invalid votes 989,628 4.90%
Sources: Adam Carr's Website [1]

Be aware that parties operate under various labels and alliances in the provinces.

Latest presidential election[edit]

e • d Summary of the 23 October 2011 Argentine presidential election results
Candidate Party or coalition Votes %
Cristina Fernández de Kirchner Front for VictoryPJ 11,864,456 54.11%
Hermes Binner Broad Progressive FrontPS 3,684,595 16.80%
Ricardo Alfonsín Union for the Social Development–UCR 2,442,880 11.14%
Alberto Rodríguez Saá Federal Commitment–PJ 1,745,303 7.96%
Eduardo Duhalde Popular Front–PJ 1,285,783 5.86%
Jorge Altamira Workers Left FrontPO 503,342 2.30%
Elisa Carrió Civic CoalitionCC ARI 399,641 1.82%
Blank votes 678,724 3.03%
Null votes 206,030 0.92%
Challenged votes 23,921 0.11%
Turnout 78.89%
Source: elecciones2011.gov.ar

Policy[edit]

Each administration had different priorities. President Alfonsín took office on the giving up of power by the last military junta, and his main task was to ensure a peaceful transition. In the end he was overcome by an economic crisis that led to a bout of hyperinflation.

President Menem first had to control inflation and stabilize the economy, which he did by adopting a series of radical measures including fixed parity between the Argentine peso and the U.S. dollar. He then engaged in a program to move Argentina's economy towards a liberal model. This plan included the privatization of the previously state-owned telecommunications company, oil conglomerate (YPF), airline (Aerolíneas Argentinas), railroads and utilities. As a result, large foreign direct investment flowed into Argentina for a short time, improving in some isolated cases the infrastructure and quality of service of those companies. His policies culminated in the highest unemployment rates of Argentine history and the doubling of external debt.

In the social arena, Menem pardoned military officers serving sentences for human rights abuses of the Dirty War. To balance the unpopular decision, he also pardoned some of the insurgents convicted of guerrilla attacks in the 1970s. The public scandal after the assassination of the soldier Omar Carrasco forced Menem to end compulsory military conscription.

Menem's administration was regarded by many[quantify] as corrupt and frivolous. Many members of his administrations have been indicted for profiteering while in office. Despite the large amount of evidence that Menem had personally profited illegally from his administration, he has never been legally convicted. The executive had a visible influence on the decisions of the judiciary, especially the Supreme Court, and displayed a certain contempt for political minorities. Moreover, it did nothing to reduce political corruption and inefficiency, one of the most important and oldest problems in the Argentine government (Argentina's Corruption Perceptions Index for 1999 was 3 out of 10, ranking 71st in a survey of 99 countries). [1]

Fernando de la Rúa's term was notoriously ineffective on many accounts. Elected with a popular mandate to reinvigorate the economy and crack down on the corruption of the Menem administration, de la Rúa was unable or unwilling to perform these tasks. He continued on the same economic course of Menem, which ultimately led to the 2001 economic crash and de la Rúa's resignation. The FrePaSo ministers of the administration, elected on a wave of hope for social changes, also disappointed with a perceived lack of investment in social schemes.

Eduardo Duhalde's interim term was strongly limited by a highly mobilized society. It was marked by the need to pacify the country and soften the impact of the crisis after the forced devaluation of the local currency, the peso, which had lost three quarters of its value in a matter of months. Duhalde employed a mixture of traditional Peronist politics (in the form of a monetary subsidy for heads of families) and neo-Keynesian economic principles to stabilize the economy and bring peace to the streets.

Néstor Kirchner, who belonged to the moderate center-left wing of Peronism (rooted in the leftist Peronist factions of the 1970s), continued Duhalde's measures (even keeping his Minister of Economy, Roberto Lavagna) and added some heterodox economics. Heavy taxes on exports have served to keep local prices of valuable commodities in check, while collecting huge revenues (especially from oil products and agricultural exports like soybeans). The restrictive monetary policy of the 1990s has become aggressively expansive; the Central Bank has injected large amounts of cash into the economy and bought dollars from the free currency market in order to accumulate reserves. The fiscal policy is also expansive; the government has raised private and public salaries by decree on several occasions, and has encouraged negotiations between the private sector and the labor movements. Inflation has again become a concern. The government has struck price-freezing agreements with certain sectors of the economy (producers of milk, some foods, natural gas, etc.) and put heavy pressure on others. Failure to comply on the part of Argentine beef producers has been met with a punitive suspension of exports, starting March 2006, intended to increase domestic supply (this was then softened to a quota system).

Other data[edit]

Some of the most important political-pressure groups in Argentina include: the Argentine Association of Pharmaceutical Labs (CILFA); the Argentine Industrial Union (manufacturers' association); Argentine Rural Society and CARBAP (landowners' associations); the Armed Forces; the General Confederation of Labor or CGT (Peronist-leaning umbrella labor organization); the Roman Catholic Church; students.

Argentina participates in the following international organizations: AfDB, ALADI, Australia Group, BCIE, ECLAC, FAO, G-6, G-11, G-15, G-19, G-20, G-24, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICCt, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, LAES, LAIA, Mercosur, MINURSO, MINUSTAH, MIPONUH, MNNA, MTCR, NSG, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UN Security Council (temporary), Unasur, UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNFCCC, UNFICYP, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIKOM, UNITAR, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNMOP, UNTAET, UNTSO, UNU, UPU, WCL, WCO, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, Zangger Committee.

References[edit]

See also[edit]