Legislative Politics in Latin America

By Scott Morgenstern; Benito Nacif | Go to book overview
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Oscillating Relations: President and
Congress in Argentina

This chapter analyzes executive–legislative relations in Argentina from the inauguration of democracy in 1983 through 1995, when Carlos S. Menem finished his first term in office. We will enter into this theme by investigating the principal risk to executive–legislative relations in presidential regimes: institutional paralysis.

Juan Linz and other critics of presidentialism have called attention to the risks of institutional paralysis, which they argue originate from the principle of division of powers and fixed electoral calendars. These factors, therefore, are inherent in the institutional structure of presidentialism. In effect, the principle of division of powers, which originates from the independent election of the executive and the legislative branches, generates autonomous powers armed with mutual vetoes. On top of this, the rigidity that stems from fixed electoral periods prevents a change of leadership, even during crisis situations, as well as the forced retirement of popular leaders. This argument leads to important questions about the two postdictatorship Argentine presidencies, both of which contained the seeds propitious for generating institutional paralysis. On the one hand, President Alfonsín faced a divided government and President Menem lacked an absolute majority in the Chamber of Deputies.1 On the other hand, the country faced crisis situations including military rebellions and hyperinflation. Nevertheless, Argentina has not experienced harmful episodes of gridlock.

An absolute majority in the chambers is important because that is the quorum required for sessions to begin.
I thank Scott Morgenstern, Natalia Ferretti, Juan Carlos Torre, and the anonymous reviewers for their very helpful suggestions and comments. I also thank the Antorchas Foundation for financing that facilitated my participation in the conference that gave rise to this project.


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Legislative Politics in Latin America
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