Group Blog #1

Buenos Aires Travel Blog

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Group: Mary Beth Strawn, Dillon Parker, Brent Brannen

Argentina currently has a presidential system of government. A presidential system includes a President whom is elected by the people of the country. His position is separate from the legislature. This system creates checks and balances between the President and the legislature, as opposed to the Parliamentary system where the Parliament can change the prime minister as they please.

The President is elected every four years with a direct popular system of voting. There is the possibility of serving two consecutive terms. After one term out of office, the president may run for office again. If the president does not win with 45% of the popular vote, or have 40% and a 10% margin over the next closest candidate, then there is a runoff between the top two candidates. With a few exceptions, it is mandatory for persons of age 18 through 70 to vote.

The Vice-President is elected on the same ballot as the president, but is not considered a part of the executive branch, according to the constitution. He is in fact considered part of the legislative branch because he serves as the President of the Senate.

The legislature consists of a National Congress and Senate. The members of the Senate serve 6-year terms. There are three seat constituencies: one third are elected every two years, two seats are awarded to the largest party or coalition, and one is awarded to the second largest. The members of the Congress serve 4 year terms and half are elected every two years. A system of proportional representation, using the D'Hondt method, is used to directly elect the Congress. The D'Hondt method slightly favors larger parties.

The system of Ballotage, or runoff voting, used for the president is very good for a country such as Argentina. With so many political parties that stand for nearly the same thing, it would be quite easy for someone, whom the majority of the nation does not support, to come into power. With the system in place in Argentina, a bare minimum of 40% must vote for the president, if this does not occur in the first election, then the candidate must receive more than 50% in the runoff in order to take office as president.

The Congress is also arranged in a way that is favorable for a country with so many political parties. With the proportional representation of the Congress, many parties can be accommodated. The implementation of the D'Hondt method allows for slight advantage to be placed upon the majority party, enabling them better leverage in the voting and therefore a better chance of overcoming any slight partisan resistance.

The Senate is organized in a way similar to that implemented by Pinochet in Chile near the end of his time in power. For countries such as Chile and Argentina with a large number of political parties, this system works better than a Plurality voting system. In a Plurality voting system, the majority winner gains all power, even if they won the election by 51%. Pinochet uses a voting system similar to a Semi-proportional system. This gives the winning party the support that they received in their constituency during the election. In Chile, the system had two seat constituencies allowing a party representation with as little as 33.4% of the votes. This weighs the power evenly between the top two parties. This system promoted a strong two-party system in Chile. The system in Argentina is a three-seat constituency system. This further advocates minority parties. In this system, a party needs only 25.1% of the votes in order to be elected. Hopefully this system will support consolidation of parties in Argentina, as the similar system did in Chile.

We propose to change the Argentine system from a Presidential system, to a Semi-Presidential System. Argentina has historically had a problem with violent change between regimes. When a president comes into power, all of the past president's policies are demonized and changed. This causes the loss of many good policies. With the current Presidential system, it would appear that it would be very easy to continue this trend. Kirschner's Presidency appears to revolve more around him as the central figure than as his party as the governing one. In a Semi-Presidential system, some of the emphasis will be taken off of the President, so as to make the transition between presidents more smooth.

A parliamentary system would even out the President’s power, but would be a greater change for the country. A change in this delicate time after years of turmoil should be avoided in order to espouse the continuation of growth in the economy and comparative political tranquility.

A Semi-Presidential system consists of a president, prime minister, and parliament. In our proposed change, the Parliament of Argentina will be exactly the same as the current Legislature. It will continue to be bicameral, and the members will be elected in the same manner. The change will be in the addition of a prime minister, and the limiting of the President's power. Our model will be France and more directly Finland, who modeled their government after France. The President will be in charge of foreign policy and the Prime Minister will be in charge of domestic policy, as is the case in practice in France and constitutionally in Finland.

In our system the President will be elected just as the current President is elected in Argentina. The Prime Minister will also be an elected official, elected in the same way as the President, but on a separate ballot at the end of the second year of the Presidents term. This will allow for domestic policy and foreign policy each changing every 4 years, but alternating, therefore making the transitions smoother.

Historically, in the United Sates, some presidents have been far better in domestic policy than in their foreign policy, and the inverse has been true as well. This system will eliminate the need for an individual to choose whether domestic or foreign policy is more important to them because they could choose one candidate to vote for based on each.

Both the President and Prime Minister will retain the line-item veto power, now held by the President, but only in relation to bills falling under their domain. The Parliament will not have the power to hold a vote of no confidence (such as the parliament of Great Britain can) on the Prime Minister or the President, but will have to impeach either to have them removed (such as is done in the United States). In essence, the current presidency will be split between two individuals.

In Argentina's multi-party environment, where so many of the parties differ so little, this will allow one party to be in power over domestic policy, and another to be in power over foreign. It will allow the people of the country to have a more specific choice in their representation. It will guard against Presidents and Prime Ministers who are incapable in either foreign or domestic policy. It will allow for more specific focus on both domestic policy by the Prime Minister, and foreign policy by the President. It will allow for the instantaneous decision making ability that a President has and a Parliament does not, yet it still keeps both the President and Prime Minister quite far from dictatorial powers. It will destroy the trend of abolishing all policies of the previous administration and ensure a smooth political system free of coups and crisis. Vive Argentina!

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