Tell it to the judge

Argentina’s Fernández looks to unite Frente de Todos with a futile attack on the judiciary.

In early January 2023, Alberto Fernández, President of Argentina, called for the impeachment of several judges of the Supreme Court, including its head, Horacio Rosatti, and justices Carlos Rosenkrantz, Juan Carlos Maqueda, and Ricardo Lorenzetti. Fernández alleged that the judges failed to perform their duties over a decision to allocate more federal funds to the government of the province of Buenos Aires, led by Horacio Rodríguez Larreta, of a right-wing opposition party.

It is unlikely to see Fernández’s request progress as his coalition of Peronist parties lacks the required two-thirds support to oust the Supreme Court judges. Despite this, the President does have the support of 11 state governors, exemplifying the divisive state of Argentinean politics.

“It’s clearly a political move,“ scoffed an Argentinian political scientist, “Fernández, to ingratiate himself with Cristina de Kirchner, who for some time now has been seeking changes in the judiciary in general, and particularly in the Supreme Court, which will ultimately rule upon the various cases in which she is accused.”

“It’s clearly a political move …Fernández, to ingratiate himself with Cristina de Kirchner, who for some time now has been seeking changes in the judiciary in general, and particularly in the Supreme Court, which will ultimately rule upon the various cases in which she is accused.”

Argentinian political scientist

There are also crucial electoral implications of the move, explained a leading political analyst in Buenos Aires, “Last month, the Supreme Court ruled in favour of restoring certain co-participation funds in favour of the City of Buenos Aires, and this has a direct impact on the funds sent to the Province of Buenos Aires. If the national government decided to abide by the ruling, the province would suffer an enormous de-financing, just a few months before the start of the election campaign. Note that the Province of Buenos Aires is historically the main bastion of power of Peronism, and especially of Kirchnerism, so it is key to any electoral outcome.”

Fernández insisted that the impeachments were part of a wider disagreement with the Supreme Court over the appointment of judges to the Judicial Council. Martín Soria, Minister of justice, called on Fernández to push through a reform, by presidential decree, to increase the number of members of the Supreme Court and amend the law governing the appointment of members of the Judicial Council. The opposition alerted that such a move would endanger the segregation of power between the country’s executive and judiciary.

“It’s all political, neither the increase in the number of members of the Court, nor the reform of the Council of the Magistrature, nor the reform of the Judiciary, have any explanation.”

A constitutional lawyer, Argentina

A constitutional lawyer despaired, “It’s all political, neither the increase in the number of members of the Court, nor the reform of the Council of the Magistrature, nor the reform of the Judiciary, have any explanation. The opposition will not even sit down to discuss these issues, which are also not supported by most of society. They do not have the support of the different bar associations, nor of the academic sector or the business sector. Not only are they not supported, but they have been openly criticised by all these groups.”

The business community is desperate for the tensions to end. Santiago Mignone, partner at PwC Argentina, warned that it was not a matter of political sides but of political stability. He emphasised that the noise created by the tensions distracted the business community from making new investments.

This was echoed by a senior executive in the financial services industry, “A country in which there is a malfunctioning of institutions, where justice does not work and there are no basic legal or political guarantees, is not an attractive country for investment. And in a country like Argentina, so dependent on investment and with so much debt, attracting investment is a priority. Far from what the government is doing.”

Despite the above, the political sabre rattling is unlikely to stop as the country approaches a general election in October 2023 with rumours of Horacio Rodríguez Larreta being the potential flagship opposition candidate to Fernández. The political analyst concluded, “Fernández wants to appease Kirchner, unite the party, and lead it into the next election. Honestly, it is obvious to everyone that Fernández will have no chance to be the party’s presidential candidate so it is hard to understand why he is going ahead with this attack on the justice system.“

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