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The President of the Argentine Nation (Spanish: Presidente de la Nación Argentina), usually known as the President of Argentina, is the head of state of Argentina. Under the national Constitution, the President is also the chief executive of the federal government and Commander-in-Chief of the armed forces.
Through Argentine history, the office of the Head of State has undergone many changes, both in its title as in its features and powers. The current President is Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, who was sworn into a second term on 10 December 2011.
Features of the office
Section 90 of the Argentine Constitution establishes the requirements for becoming the President. The President must be a natural-born citizen of the country, or have been born to an Argentine citizen if born abroad. The President must also be at least 30 years old. In addition, all the requirements for becoming a Senator apply.
Sections 94 to 98 discuss the electoral requirements. A two-round system is used (Section 94). In order to win the election in the first turn, the winning candidate's party must receive either more than 45 percent of so-called "votos positivos" (Section 97) or at least 40 percent of "votos positivos" (Postive votes) and be more than 11 percent ahead of the candidate with the second-highest percentage (Section 98). "Votos positivos" are the sum of all votes validly cast for any of the candidates, leaving out of the count blank and spoilt votes.
If no candidate obtains the necessary votes to win in the first round, then the two candidates with the most votes compete in the second round, held two weeks later, when the candidate with the most votes in that round is elected president.
Under the 1994 constitutional amendment, the President serves for four years, with a possibility of immediate reelection for one more term. However, unlike the President of the United States, in Argentina a person may be reelected again after serving for two terms, and staying out of office for the following term. So after serving for two consecutive periods, the president is not allowed to run for a third consecutive one, but may return for the two following elections and so on. There is no limit for a person to be a candidate if he or she does not win the elections.
Also, a person being vice-president for two consecutive periods, or president and then vice-president, or vice-president and then president, is under the same restrictions mentioned above.
Under the constitution of 1853, the President served for six years, with no possibility of consecutive reelection. In 1949, reelection for an indefinite number of terms was allowed (and disabled in 1957). After the 1966 military coup, the rulers promulgated a law establishing terms of four years, terms which were never completed because of political instability.
In addition with the 1994 constitutional reform, the requirement of belonging to the Roman Catholic faith in order to be President or Vice President of the Republic, was also abolished.
Powers (Article 99)
President of the Nation has the following powers:
- It is the supreme head of the Nation, head of government and politically responsible for the general administration of the country.
- He issues the instructions and regulations necessary for the execution of the laws of the nation, without altering their spirit with regulatory exceptions.
- Participates in the making of laws under the Constitution, promulgates them and has them published. The Executive Power shall in no case under penalty, and void, issue legislative provisions. Only when exceptional circumstances make it impossible to follow the ordinary procedures foreseen by this Constitution for the enactment of laws, and not try to rules governing criminal matters, taxation, electoral or political party regime, may issue decrees on grounds of necessity and urgency, which will be decided by a general agreement of ministers who shall countersign them together with the head of cabinet of ministers. The head of personally and within ten days submit the decision to the consideration of the Joint Standing Committee, whose composition should respect the proportion of the political representation of each chamber. This commission shall submit its report within ten days to the plenary of each House for its specific treatment, they immediately considered the Chambers. A special law enacted with the absolute majority of all the members of each House shall regulate the procedure and scope of Congress intervention.
- Appoints the judges of the Supreme Court with the Senate by two-thirds of the members present, at a public meeting convened for that purpose. Appoints the other judges of the lower federal courts according to a binding three candidates proposed by the Judiciary Council, with the Senate, in public session, in which the suitability of candidates will be considered. A new appointment, the same consent, it is necessary to keep in under any of those judges, once they reach the age of seventy-five years. All appointments of judges whose age is indicated or over shall be five years and may be repeated indefinitely, by the same procedure.
- He may grant pardons or commute sentences for crimes subject to federal jurisdiction, following a report of the court, except in cases of impeachment by the House of Representatives.
- Grant pensions, retirements, pensions and licenses under the laws of the Nation.
- Appoints and removes ambassadors, ministers plenipotentiary and business with the Senate; alone appoints and removes the chief of cabinet ministers and other cabinet ministers, the officers of his Secretariat, consular agents and employees whose appointments are not otherwise regulated by this Constitution.d
- Annually it makes the opening session of the Congress, both Houses assembled for this purpose, this time realising the state of the Nation, on amendments promised by the Constitution, and recommend to their consideration such measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient.
- Extension regular sessions of Congress, or convokes extraordinary sessions when a serious interest order or progress requires.
- He oversees the performance of the duties of the Chief of the Ministerial Cabinet as regards the collection of the revenues of the Nation and its investment in accordance with the law or budget of national expenditures.
History of the office of Head of State
The origins of Argentina as a nation can be traced to 1776, when it was separated by the Spanish King from the existing Viceroyalty of Peru, creating the new Viceroyalty of the Río de la Plata. The Head of State continued to be the King, but he was represented locally by the Viceroy. These Viceroys were seldom natives of the country.
By the May Revolution of May 25, 1810, the first Argentine autonomous government, known as the Primera Junta, was formed in Buenos Aires. It was later known as the Junta Grande when representatives from the provinces joined. These early attempts of self-government were succeeded by two Triumvirates and, although the first juntas had presidents, the King of Spain was still regarded as Head of State (as independence had not yet been declared), and the executive power was still not in the hands of a single person.
This power was vested in one man when the position of Supreme Director was created by the 1813 National Assembly. The Supreme Directors became Heads of State after Independence was declared on 9 July 1816, but there was not yet truly a presidential system.
In 1819, Congress declared Independence and composed a Constitution. This established an executive figure, named Supreme Director, who was vested with presidential powers. This constitution gave the Supreme Director the power of appointing Governors of the provinces. Due to political circumstances, this constitution never came into force, and the central power was dissolved, leaving the country as a federation of provinces.
A new constitution was drafted in 1826. This constitution was the first to create a President, although this office retained the powers described in the 1819 constitution. This constitution did come into force, resulting in the election of the first President, Bernardino Rivadavia. Because of the Cisplatine War, Rivadavia resigned after a short time, and the office was dissolved shortly after.
A civil war between unitarios (unitarians, i.e. Buenos Aires centralists) and federales (federalists) ensued in the following decades. In this time, there was no central authority, and the closest to that was the Chairman of Foreign Relations, typically the Governor of the Province of Buenos Aires. The last to bear this title was Juan Manuel de Rosas, who in the last years of his governorship was elected Supreme Chief of the Confederation, gaining effective rule of the rest of the country.
In 1852, Rosas was deposed, and a constitutional convention was summoned. This constitution, still in force, established a national federal government, with the office of the President. The term was fixed as six years, with no possibility of reelection. The first elected President under the constitution was Justo José de Urquiza, but Buenos Aires seceded from the Argentine Confederation as the State of Buenos Aires. Bartolomé Mitre was the first president of the unified country, when Buenos Aires rejoined the Confederation. Thus, Rivadavia, Urquiza and Mitre are considered the first presidents of Argentina by different historians: Rivadavia for being the first one to use the title, Urquiza for being the first one to rule under the 1853 constitution, and Mitre for being the first president of Argentina under its current national limits.
In 1930, and again in 1943, 1955, 1962, 1966 and 1976, military coups deposed elected Presidents. In 1966 and 1976, federal government was undertaken by a military junta, where power was shared by the chiefs of the armed forces. In 1962, the President of the Senate ruled, but in the other cases, a military chief assumed the title of President.
It is debatable whether these military presidents can properly be called Presidents, as there are issues with the legitimacy of their governments. The position of the current Argentine government is that military Presidents Leopoldo Fortunato Galtieri and Jorge Rafael Videla were explicitly not legitimate presidents. They, and their immediate successors were denied the right to a presidential pension after the conclusion of their terms. The status of earlier military presidents, however, remains more uncertain.
De facto governments
Following military coups that overthrew the constitutional government were de facto military presidents in 1930-1932, 1943–1946, 1955–1958, 1966–1973 and 1976–1983 that brought in addition to the powers of the president also corresponding to Congress. The subsequent analysis of the validity of their actions led to the subsequent formulation of the doctrine of de facto governments.
That doctrine was nullified by the constitutional reform of 1994 (Article 36), which stated "usurpers" who have stopped the enforcement of the Constitution by acts of force.
Article 29 of the Constitution of 1853 had an article that considered the sum of public power as 'treason', but was referred to the de jure rulers. For this reason the constitutional reform of 1994 included Article 36 which says:
- "Article 36. This Constitution shall rule even when its observance is interrupted by acts of force against the institutional order and the democratic system. These acts shall be irreparably null.
- "Their authors shall be punished with the penalty foreseen in Section 29, disqualified in perpetuity from holding public offices and excluded from the benefits of pardon and commutation of sentences.
- "Those who, as a consequence of these acts, were to assume the powers foreseen for the authorities of this Constitution or for those of the provinces, shall be punished with the same penalties and shall be civil and criminally liable for their acts. The respective actions shall not be subject to prescription.
- "All citizens shall have the right to oppose resistance to those committing the acts of force stated in this section.
- "He who, procuring personal enrichment, incurs in serious fraudulent offense against the Nation shall also attempt against the democratic system, and shall be disqualified to hold public office for the term specified by law.
- "Congress shall enact a law on public ethics which shall rule the exercise of public office."
In summary the article states:
- Absolute nullity of the acts issued by government installed by force;
- The authors shall be punished as traitors;
- These crimes are barred and the authors can not receive the benefit of the amnesty;
- Every citizen has the right to resistance against these acts of force.
The most famous presidential airplane, known as "Tango 01" (by analogy with U.S. Air Force One), owes its name to the denomination of T (pronounced tango in the NATO alphabet) for Transport, which creates an interesting word-game for the Argentine classical Tango music. The presidential helicopter is the usual means of transport between the Quinta de Olivos and the Casa Rosada.
Line of succession
The office of Vice-President was established by the 1853 Constitution for the purpose of providing a succession in case the President is unable to complete their term. The Argentine Constitution (art. 88) entitles the Vice-President to exercise the role and duties of the President, both in the case of a temporary absence and in the case of a permanent absence due to health reasons, death, resignation or removal.
Line of succession
In the absence of both the President and the Vice-President, the succession is regulated by the Law 20,972 ("Acephaly Law"). It provides that the Executive Power must be temporarily exercised (without assuming the title of President) by the provisional President of the Senate. In its absence, by the President of the Chamber of Deputies. In the absence of both, by the President of the Supreme Court.
In case of the permanent absence of both the President and the Vice-President, due to resignation, death, or removal, the Constitution (art. 88) entitles the National Congress Assembled to select a new President from among the current Senators, Deputies and Governors, within the following two days of the death or resignation of the former President, and to provide him or her with a mandate to call for elections.
Living former presidents
- President elected to the most terms: Juan Perón, three terms, elected consecutively in 1946 and 1951, and in 1973.
- President elected with the most difference between the winner and the second: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner in 2011 with 54.11% to the 16% of Hermes Binner
- President who held office for most time: Julio Argentino Roca, for 12 years, in two terms (1880–1886 and 1898–1904).
- President who held office for most time continuously: Carlos Menem, for 10 years and 5 months, in two terms (1989–1999).
- President who held office for the shortest time (not counting interim presidents): Arturo Rawson, for three days: June 4 to 6, 1943.
- First President: Bernardino Rivadavia, 1826.
- First President under the present Constitution: Justo José de Urquiza, 1854 to 1860.
- First President born an Argentine citizen, not a Spanish subject: Bartolomé Mitre, in 1821.
- First President elected in the twentieth century: Manuel Quintana, in 1904.
- First President elected in the twenty-first century: Néstor Carlos Kirchner, in 2003.
- First de facto President: José Félix Uriburu, 1930.
- Last de facto President: Reynaldo Bignone, left in 1983.
- First female President: Isabel Perón (1974–1976).
- First elected female President: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in 2007.
- First re-elected female President: Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, in 2011.
- Presidents who died in office: Manuel Quintana (1906), Roque Sáenz Peña (1914) and Juan Perón (1974).
- Presidents who were assassinated: Justo José de Urquiza (1870) and Pedro Eugenio Aramburu (1970), both after concluding their terms.
- Living former presidents as of 17 May 2013: Isabel Perón, Carlos Menem, Fernando de la Rúa, Adolfo Rodríguez Saá and Eduardo Alberto Duhalde, and dictators Roberto M. Levingston and Reynaldo Bignone.
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