The government last Thursday pushed an amended Council of Magistrates reform bill through the Senate, in belated compliance with a Supreme Court ruling declaring the current composition of the Council unconstitutional and ordering rectification by next Friday.
The vote went 37-33 in the government’s favour in the 72-seat Senate. The bill now passes to the Chamber of Deputies where its prospects are more complex with time at a premium.
The Council of Magistrates will be paralysed if there is no compliance with the Supreme Court ruling, which had mandated that the body should return by mid-April to its original strength of 20 preceding a Kirchnerite reform in 2006. Thursday’s bill was an attempt to circumvent this ruling.
After the original government bill failed to muster quorum, Thursday’s approval was only possible after accepting amendments proposed by former
Río Negro Province Governor Alberto Weretilneck. But in the Chamber of Deputies no such allies are readily available to ensure final approval.
A resigned lower house caucus chief Germán Martínez (Frente de Todos-Santa Fe) admitted yesterday that the bill had little chance of passage with time running short, especially with next week being Easter week and with committee sessions required for a second reading before sending the bill to the House floor for a final vote.
Martínez bitterly complained that the Supreme Court had taken 1,577 days to analyse this issue and was now giving the deputies just a reduced week.
The session began after 2pm, reaching quorum with the presence of the Frente de Todos caucus headed José Mayans (Formosa), accompanied by allied independents Weretilneck, Magdalena Solari Quintana (Misiones), Clara Vega (La Rioja) and Alejandra Vigo (Córdoba) while the Juntos por el Cambio opposition tried to deny quórum.
The government bill seeks to meet Supreme Court objections by expanding the Council from 13 to 17 with the inclusion of more members from the legal and judicial spheres while continuing to exclude the Supreme Court.
Weretilneck’s amendments, key to its passage, centred on making representation more federal.