viernes, agosto 11, 2006

Otra que ¿mide?

Tomado de The Economist:
Para la revista, los superpoderes no son para tanto, chicos. Son los mismos que tiene Lula. No hagan tanto bardo ¿no?

Argentina's presidency

Not so super powers

Aug 10th 2006 | BUENOS AIRES
From The Economist print edition

Néstor Kirchner sidelines Congress and the courts

IN 1993 Carlos Menem, then Argentina's president, made a deal. The congressional opposition allowed him the right to run for re-election and changed the constitution to make lawful decrees he had already issued. In return, the president's term was reduced from six years to four and his influence over other branches of government, such as the judiciary, was limited. The agreement, known as the Olivos Pact, expanded presidential power in some ways and restricted it in others. The current president, Néstor Kirchner, is now casting off the fetters.

This is the work of a political virtuoso. Through changes in the tax system Mr Kirchner has cowed nearly all the provincial governors, historically the most effective counterweight to the presidency. By founding state-owned enterprises and re-nationalising privatised ones he has expanded the executive's power over employment and prices. He appointed a majority of the judges on the Supreme Court, then gained an effective veto over lower-court nominations. His biggest triumph came on August 3rd, when Congress gave him authority to reallocate government spending as he sees fit. Mr Kirchner may even circumvent term limits—the Olivos Pact holds him to two consecutive terms—by alternating presidencies with his wife, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, a popular senator.

None of this puts Mr Kirchner in the same class as Venezuela's Hugo Chávez, an elected strongman, still less in the company of generals who ruled Argentina in the 1970s. Some of Mr Kirchner's newly acquired powers, such as discretion over spending and a bigger share of tax revenue, resemble those enjoyed by Brazil's president. Nevertheless, Mr Kirchner is “the most centralising president in Argentina's modern democratic history,” argues Luis Tonelli, a political columnist. Mr Kirchner may fancy himself a latter-day Juan Perón, a populist champion of the proletariat who led Argentina for a dozen years in the 20th century. Argentina's fragile democratic institutions, many liberals fear, will suffer.

When Mr Kirchner took office in May 2003 few Argentines expected him to last a full term. He won the election after Mr Menem withdrew from the run-off, denying the incoming president a popular mandate. Mr Kirchner has since achieved popularity by presiding over a sharp recovery from an economic crisis that began in 2001 and by forcing creditors to write off much of Argentina's public debt.

Economic success laid the foundation for Mr Kirchner's accumulation of power. He slapped very high taxes, of more than 20% in some cases, on export revenues, which had been boosted by a devaluation of the peso and high prices for commodities. Unlike nearly all other government revenues, export taxes are exempt from the “co-participation” system under which a portion of federal tax is automatically distributed to the provinces. As a result, the provinces' share of tax revenues fell from 39% in 2001 to 34% in 2005, making governors more dependent on Mr Kirchner's goodwill. Unsurprisingly, five of the six governors from the Radical Party—theoretically the opposition—have allied with the president. He is likely to choose one as his running mate in 2007.

Ignoring their history of losses and inefficiency, Mr Kirchner has taken over enterprises once owned by the state and founded new ones. The postal service has been re-nationalised, along with Buenos Aires's water utility; the government has acquired minority stakes in the main privately owned airline and the airport operator. New state enterprises now being created include another airline, an energy company and a manufacturer of satellites. All this will enable Mr Kirchner to set a wide range of prices directly, to steer investment to favoured regions and to boost employment if the economy slows down.

The president initially won praise for making the process of nominating Supreme Court judges more transparent. Recently, though, he has eroded judicial independence by weakening the Magistrates' Council, a pillar of the Olivos agreement. The council, which comprises lawyers, academics and representatives of the legislature and the executive, vets potential judges and sends a shortlist to the president, who makes the final choice. In February, at Mr Kirchner's behest, Congress reduced the council's membership from 20 to 13 but left him with five appointees. This allows the president to deny the body a quorum, in effect giving him a veto over judicial nominations.

This is a modest coup compared with Mr Kirchner's hollowing out of Congress's powers, often with the co-operation of Congress itself, which he controls even though he lacks a formal majority in the lower house. He has resorted more frequently than his predecessors to executive decrees, which remain law unless Congress revokes them. And now Mr Kirchner has gained a virtually free hand over the budget. He had already enjoyed the power to rewrite spending bills as long as he spent only the overall amount appropriated by Congress, but those “super-powers”, introduced during the economic crisis, expired in 2005. Congress has now restored them permanently, conceding one of its primary powers to the president.

So far, most Argentines are too grateful to Mr Kirchner for the economic recovery to join intellectuals and activists in bemoaning “hyperpresidentialism”. Opinion polls predict an easy win against all potential challengers in next year's election. “The best guarantee of the separation of powers is that Argentines can vote every two years [for Congress],” Mrs Kirchner told opposition senators during a debate on the budget law. “Don't be afraid, because if this government does horrible things as you fear it will, the people won't vote for it, just like they didn't vote for you.” Senator Kirchner neglected to mention that her husband's power grab makes such a catastrophe more likely.

No hay comentarios.: