Argentina will end up voting for judges, vows president

Fernández says battle to reform judiciary not over

President Cristina Fernández (r) during the act at Córdoba University (Argentina).
President Cristina Fernández (r) during the act at Córdoba University (Argentina). Inma Montiel (EFE)

Reacting to a Supreme Court decision that declared the backbone of her judicial reform unconstitutional, Argentina’s President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner said on Wednesday that “sooner or later” Argentineans will have the opportunity “to vote democratically” for the members of the judiciary.

Her government has been pushing for six measures aimed at restructuring the judiciary — a move she has said would “democratize the justice system.” But the top court struck down the most important one, which called for citizens to vote for members of the Magistrates Council, the body that oversees the court system and appoints judges.

“Those who believe that they can stop growth and the advancement of democracy through a resolution should realize that they can only do it for a short time because there is not one society that will tolerate for a long time impediments that keep citizens from electing the powers that are described in the Constitution,” Fernández de Kirchner said during an event to mark the 400th anniversary of the University of Córdoba.

Remedies to heal

“We endured some pain yesterday [Tuesday], but we will heal because we have a lot of remedies, good pharmacists, vaccinations and antibiotics, too,” she said.

The top court rejected the proposed law that was before Congress because it said in a six-to-one decision that an election for members of the Magistrates Council was unconstitutional. The ruling was the latest in the ongoing battle between Argentina’s judiciary and the president, who has directly accused judges of blocking her reforms in different sectors.

The package of six reforms was introduced in March just a few months after courts had been ruling against her government in a legal battle over a proposed media law aimed at breaking up communications monopolies.

“When somebody was telling me yesterday that they felt sad [because of the decision], I told them to leave sadness for when you watch a soap opera or a movie. Party members like us need to be happy and ready for the next battle, because the only battle you lose is the one you don’t fight and we will keep fighting like we have in the past 10 years,” she said.

Justice Minister Julio Alak said the government would respect the decision. Legal analysts said that Argentina cannot appeal the decision in international forums, such as the Inter-American Court for Human Rights, because the Supreme Court has the last say on the issue.

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