President of Argentina

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The President of Argentina (full title: President of the Argentine Nation, Spanish: Presidente de la Nación 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 Néstor Kirchner, who was inaugurated in his office on May 25, 2003.

Features of the office

Requirements

Article 89 of the Argentine Constitution establishes the requirements one must meet in order to become President. The President must be a natural-born citizen of the country, or be son of Argentine citizens, in the case of being born abroad. The remaining requirements, the article establishes, are the same requirements for becoming a Senator.

Another requirement, present before the last constitutional amendment of 1994, was that the President had to be baptized by the Roman Catholic Church, but that requirement is no longer effective.

Presidential Elections

The current method for electing the President is by popular vote. The former method (established by the Constitution in 1853 and re-established by the amendment of 1957) was of election by means of an Electoral College. The amendment of 1949 established popular election for the first time, and the last amendment of 1994 re-established it.

Presidential Powers

Among the most important powers of the President, are the faculties of managing the country's foreign relations, present law proposals to Congress, appoint members of the Supreme Court and issue presidential decrees.

Former faculties included appointing the full of the federal judiciary (amended in 1994) and appointing Roman Catholic bishops (a power which was resigned by the signing of a concordat with the Holy See in 1966). After the establishment of Buenos Aires as federal capital city in 1880, it was a power of the President to appoint the Mayor of the city. This power was lost when, in the constitutional amendment of 1994, it was established that the capital city's citizens would elect their own authorities, which was done in 1996 with the first Mayor election.

Term duration

Under the last constitutional amendment (1994), the President serves for four years, with a possibility of reelection for one more term.

Under the original text of 1853, the President served for six years, with no possibility of reelection. In the 1949 amendment, reelection for an indefinite number of terms was enabled (and disabled again in the 1957 amendment), and the authorities from the 1966 military coup promulgated a resolution establishing terms of four years during the 1970s (terms which were never completed because of the political instability of those days).

There had also been cases where the departing president shortened the duration of his term by some months, to provide for a more 'serene' departure, making the next elected president be inaugurated earlier in office. This happened in the transition from Raúl Alfonsín to Carlos Menem in 1989, and from Eduardo Duhalde to Néstor Kirchner in 2003.

Succession

The Constitution establishes in Article 88 that in case of death, resignation or destitution of the President, the office is exercised by the Vice-President for the rest of the term. In the case there is no Vice-President, the Congress decides on the succession.

The current succession mechanism is established by law of Congress, and establishes that the President of the Senate assumes as interim President, and in a few days the Congress assembles and elects a more permanent successor. It is also decided by Congress whether the elected President exercises the office for the rest of the term, or if anticipated elections are summoned.

Presidential symbols and residence

The most important presidential symbols are the presidential sash and the presidential cane. The sash symbolizes continuity of the office, as the departing President takes it off and puts it on the inaugurating President, and has the colours of the Argentine flag. The cane symbolizes presidential power, and is a different cane for each holder of the office, usually manufactured by a prestigious goldsmith, although it is common for a President to choose to be inaugurated with the same cane of an illustrious former President.

The presidential figure is associated with two famous residences: the Casa Rosada ("Pink House") and the Quinta de Olivos (closely translated as "Olivos vacational residence"). The Casa Rosada is the effective seat of government, located at the address of Balcarce 50, in the city of Buenos Aires centre. The Quinta, located in Olivos, province of Buenos Aires, is the residence of the President and his family.

Some newer presidential symbols, which do not yet qualify as traditional, are the presidential planes and helicopter. The most famous presidential airplane, known as "Tango 01" (a simile of U.S. Air Force One, owes its name to the denomination of T (pronounced tango in the NATO alphabet) for Transport, which creates and interesting word-game for the Argentine classical tango dance style, known all over the world. The presidential helicopter is the usual mean of transport for the daily trip between the Quinta de Olivos and the Casa Rosada, and the other way round.

History of the Head of State office

Pre-autonomous government

The origins of Argentina as a nation can be traced to 1776, when the territory of the country was separated, by the Spanish King decision, from the existing Viceroyalty of Peru, creating the new Viceroyalty of the River Plate. The Head of State continued to be the King, but it was represented locally by the designated Viceroy. These Viceroys where seldom natural-born in the country, so this period if considered of colonial dependence to Spain.

Early autonomous government

With the Revolution in Buenos Aires on May 25,1810, the first autonomous government, was formed by locals and was known as the Primera Junta. It was later known as the Junta Grande when representatives from the provinces joined it. These early attempts of self-government where succeeded by two triumvirates, and, although the first juntas had their President, the King of Spain was still regarded as Head of State (as independence had not yet been declared), and the executive power was not still in the hands of a single person.

This power began to be vested on one man when the figure of Director was created in the 1813 National Assembly. The different Directors became Head of State after Independence was declared in 1816, but they weren't yet the head of a presidential system.

The Constitution of 1819

In 1819 the Congress assembled that had declared Independence, composed a Constitution. It established an executive figure, named Supreme Director, which was vested with presidential powers. This constitution was of unitarian style, and gave the Supreme Director the additional power of appointing the Governors of the provinces. This constitution, however, because of political circumstances, never came into force, and central power was dissolved, leaving the country as a federation of provinces.

The Constitution of 1826

A new constitutional drafting attempt was made in 1826. This constitution was the first to create the figure of President, although this office retained the unitarian powers described in the 1819 attempt. This constitution came into force, resulting in the election of the first President, Bernardino Rivadavia. Due to problems related to the Argentine-Brazilian War, Rivadavia resigned in short time, and the office was dissolved shortly after.

The Civil War

A civil war between unitarios (unitarians) and federales (federalists) ensued in the following decades. In this period, there was no central authority, and the closest figure to that was the Chairman of Foreign Relations, a title often vested on 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 as Supreme Chief of the Confederation, gaining the effective rule of the rest of the country.

The Constitution of 1853

In 1852 Rosas was deposed, and a constitutional convention was summoned. This new constitution, still in force to this date, established a national federal government, with the office of the President as is known today. The term was fixed to six years, with no possibility of reelection. The first elected President in this fashion was Justo José de Urquiza. Amid a brief dissolution of the office in 1860, the succession of Presidents ran smoothly into the 20th century, until it was interrupted by several coup d'etats, creating a line of elected presidents mixed with 'de facto' ones.

Military Presidents

Beginning in 1930, and later in 1943, 1955, 1963, 1966 and 1976, different military coups deposed the current President, elected by constitutional means. In the cases of 1966 and 1976, federal government was undertaken by a Military Junta, where power was shared by the chiefs of the three armed forces. In 1963, government wasn't undertaken by the military, but by the President of the Senate, and in the other cases, and also after the dissolution of the Juntas previously mentioned, a military chief assumed under the title of President.

It is subject of debate whether these military presidents can be titled Presidents at all, as it raises issues about the legitimacy of their respective governments. An example of it is the fact that some military presidents from the last coup (1976) were denied the right to a presidential pension after the conclusion of their terms.

Statistics

The office of Vice-President

In the original 1853 constitution, the figure of the Vice-President was established for the sole purpose of providing for an unexpected issue of succession in an unfinished term. In the amendment of 1994, the Vice-President, as in other countries, was given the additional title of President of the Senate, making his role a more legislative than executive one, with the power to vote in the case of a tie in the assembly.

See also

External links

es:Presidente de Argentina id:Presiden Argentina it:Presidenti dell'Argentina