Category Archives: Argentina

Countries that have actively debated introducing SP (5) – Argentina

Argentina’s constitution was amended in 1994 and the position of prime minister was created. (See a previous post). While, for me, this doesn’t make Argentina semi-presidential, it is clear that the pros and cons of establishing a semi-presidentialism system were actively debated.

The process began with the creation by President Alfonsín of the Consejo para la Consolidacion de la Democracia in 1985. The process was completed with the so-called Pacto de Olivos in December 1993. The recommendations of the Consejo para la Consolidacion de la Democracia, at least as far as they concerned the prime minister, were pretty similar to the ones that were adopted in the end.

An article (in Spanish) by Carlos Nino from 1989 in favour of semi-presidentialism in Argentina is available here.

An article (in English) by Gabriel Negretto that gives information about the debate over presidentialism/semi-presidentialism (p. 14 onwards) can be found here.

In Arend Lijphart’s edited volume Parliamentary vs Presidential Government (OUP, 1992), there is a short extract from the report of the Consejo para la Consolidacion de la Democracia.

There is a nice resume (in Spanish) on the process as a whole by Alejandro M. Garro in the Revista Española de Derecho Constitucional, 1989.

‘Difficult’ cases – Argentina

This is series of posts that identifies countries that almost comply with the definition of semi-presidentialism that is used in this blog, but which fail to do so on the basis of a certain, sometimes unusual provision, or where the date when semi-presidentialism started can be contested.

I have never seen Argentina included in a list of countries with semi-presidential constitutions. However, since the 1994 revision to the constitution and since the first appointment to the office in June 1995 Argentina has had a position of ‘Chief of the Ministerial Cabinet’ or ‘Jefe de gabinete de ministros’. The constitution is available in English here and Spanish here.

Article 101 of the 1994 constitution states that the Chief of the Ministerial Cabinet may be interpellated by Congress for the purpose of considering a vote of censure and that he may be removed by an absolute majority vote of both Houses of Congress.

So, Argentina has a directly elected president, and a prime minister who is responsible to the legislature. Therefore, why is Argentina not classed as semi-presidential?

There are various answers to the question. The first is that everyone in the academy just naturally assumes Argentina is presidential. So, to include it in a list of semi-presidential countries is to risk a certain amount of professional ridicule. The second reason is that most people think that semi-presidentialism involves the situation where the president and prime minister share powers. This is clearly not the case in Argentina. So, Argentina cannot be semi-presidential. However, this is not the definition of semi-presidentialism used in this blog (and seemingly by quite a few other people in the profession now as well). The definition here does not make reference to the powers of the president or prime minister, constitutional or otherwise. In that case, why do people who share this definition of semi-presidentialism not include Argentina in the list of semi-presidential countries?

The answer to that more knotty question, I think, is that there is clearly only individual prime ministerial responsibility in the Argentinian case. There are plenty of Latin American constitutions where individual ministers can be censured by Congress. The situation is Argentina is similar in that there is individual responsibility. Here, though, the person responsible is the prime minister. There is no collective responsibility in Argentina and, for the purposes of this blog, this is a necessary condition of semi-presidentialism.

As an auto-critique, however, in my list of semi-presidential countries I have long included some countries whose constitutions also only have individual prime ministerial responsibility e.g. Namibia, Philippines (1981-86), Tajikistan. Moreover, in the case of Uganda and South Korea the appointment of the prime minister is subject to the consent of parliament. There is no mention of the appointment of the cabinet being collectively subject to parliamentary consent.

Any definition of semi-presidentialism must be reliable. This is why the definitions that make reference to the power of political actors are so inadequate. Hopefully, the advantage of the definition of semi-presidentialism used in this blog is that the classification rules are reliable. If so, then presumably either Argentina must be included in the list, or countries such as Namibia, Philippines (1981-86) and Tajikistan should be excluded.

I think it is right to exclude Argentina from the list of semi-presidential countries. However, in subsequent lists of semi-presidential countries, I think it will also be my inclination to exclude Namibia, Philippines (1981-86) and Tajikistan so as to ensure the consistent classification of countries.

Comments welcome.