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Argentina - Political Parties

AcronymSpanishEnglish Translation
ADSAlianza Demócrata Socialista Democratic Socialist Alliance
AFAlianza FederalFederal Alliance
ARPAlianza Revolucionaria Popular Revolutionary Popular Alliance
FIPFrente de Izquierda Popular Popular Left Front
LNLinea Nacional National Line
MASMovimiento al Socialismo Movement to Socialism
MAYMovimiento de Afirmacion Yrigoyenista Yrigoyenist Affirmation Movement
MIDMovimiento de Integracion y Desarrollo Movement for Integration and Development
MIMMovimiento de Intrasigencia y Movilizacion Intransigence and Mobilization Movement
MRCMovimiento de Renovación y Camblo Movement of Renovation and Change
PCAPartido Comunista Argentina Argentine Communist Party
PDPartido Demócrata Democratic Party
PDCPartido Democrata Cristiano Christian Democratic Party
PDPPartido Democrata Progresista Progressive Democratic Party
PFCPartido Federalista del Centro Federalist Party of the Center
PIPartido Intransigente Intransigent Party
PJPartido Justicialista Justicialist Party
P0Partido Obrero Workers Party
PPCPartido Popular Cristiano Christian Popular Party
PRCPartido Revolucionario CristianoChristian Revolutionary Party
PROPropuesta Republicana Republican Proposal
PSPartido Socialista Socialist Party
PSDPartido Socialista Democrática Democratic Socialist Party
PSPPartido Socialista Popular Popular Socialist Party
UCRUnion Civica Radical Radical Civic Union
UCRPUnion Civica Radical del Pueblo People's Radical Civic Union
UCRIUnion Civica Radical IntransigenteIntransigent Radical Civic Union
UCDUnion del Centro Democrático Union of the Democratic Center
UDUnion Democrática Democratic Union
UFDCUnion Federal Democrata Cristiana Christian Democratic Federal Union
URUnion Republicana Republican Union

Throughout the end of the 19th and the beginning of the 20th centuries, Argentina was one of the few nations in Latin America with well-established and fully functioning political parties. However, between 1930 and 1983 the armed forces were a much more powerful factor in Argentine politics than any political party. Almost all of Argentina’s governments during this period were directly military or military backed, and almost all changes in government resulted from military coups d’etat rather than competitive elections.

The two largest traditional political parties were the Justicialist Party (PJ - also called Peronist), founded in 1945 by Juan Domingo Peron, and the Union Civica Radical (UCR), or Radical Civic Union, founded in 1891. New political forces and alliances tend to form during each election cycle. Notable examples in recent years include the Civic Coalition (CC) and the Republican Proposal (Propuesta Republicana, or PRO), both concentrated in the urban centers and working to build national party structures. PRO is mostly based in the city of Buenos Aires, where its leader, Mauricio Macri, won the 2007 mayoral election and won the most votes in the 2011 mayoral election's first round.

The political party system was unstable and unable to serve as a major support for the consolidation of liberal democracy. The dominant characteristics of most parties were factionalism and personalism. Cohesion and effectiveness depended on a strong leader, in the absence of which local and personal political organizations were often stronger than the national party. Individual parties almost always had the province, not the nation, as their fundamental reference point. By and large, the major parties did not have distinctive policies, and divisions between the parties and among intraparty factions were based on personalities as much as or more than on ideology.

The organizational instability of the party system was reflected in the fact that although some seven to 10 parties typically contested national elections prior to the early 1950s, at least 150 separate parties took part in the elections held between 1955 and 1965. At the time of the 1966 coup, there were three separate Radical parties, four Socialist parties, at least a dozen Peronist and neo-Peronist parties, and perhaps 20 Conservative parties. Although nine parties and coalitions contested the 1972 elections, only the UCR and the PJ had a formal organization in every province. Fifteen parties contested the 1983 elections, 13 of which ran presidential candidates.

The fluid nature of the political parties contributed to the weakness of liberal democratic institutions. Most parties were little more than electoral machines designed to further the political ambitions of their leaders. Their goal was to gain control of the executive branch; once that was accomplished, parties served little purpose. Only rarely did a government party play an important role in policy formation. There was little incentive for opposition parties to support the government because patronage and participation in policymaking came solely from control of the executive branch. Therefore, weakening the president as much as possible was the major preoccupation of opposition parties. By impeding the president's program, opposition parties could hope to precipitate a political crisis, which might increase their chances of acquiring the presidency.

Although the "Frente Para la Victoria" (or "oficialismo" of which both Balestrini and Vaca are members) had a plurality, there were 31 different political blocs in the Congress prior to the 2007 election, which made it difficult to achieve consensus. While there are nominally over 40 national political parties and 650 local parties in Argentina, as has been the case in past elections, the principal candidates in the June 2007 midterms were backed by coalitions versus individual parties. Seven alliances registered in Buenos Aires province, this race's electoral plum representing 37% of the national vote.

The four major alliances included the ruling FpV but under a newly-christened name, the Victory Peronist Front (FJpV); the Peronist dissidents' PRO-Union; the Radical Party's (UCR), Civic Coalition's (CC), and Socialist Party's newly-formed Civic and Social Agreement; and Vice President Julio Cobos's Federal Consensus. Nine alliances registered in the Federal District, another key electoral district representing 9.5% of the national vote. The three major alliances include the Republican Proposal (PRO) alliance, the Civic and Social Agreement, and the ruling Victory Front (FpV).

In December 2009, Argentine President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner (CFK), taking advantage of her (soon-to-expire) majority in the lame-duck Congress, succeeded in getting her electoral reform bill passed without major modifications. The new law has positive, sensible elements that could ultimately make political parties more democratic and less the personal fiefdoms of caudillos. The law made changes in four key areas: party primaries, the quantity of parties, campaign finance, and polling. It requires parties wishing to compete in national elections (for President or for representation in the national Congress) to hold simultaneous, obligatory, and open party primaries for candidates on the second Sunday in August during electoral years (August 14, 2011 would be the first time primaries will be held under the new legislation).

For parties to participate in the general elections, they must have registered members (not just supporters) representing four per 1,000 of the total electoral roll in each district of the country. In addition, their candidates must secure at least 1.5% (around 300,000 votes) of the votes in the primaries. In an effort to secure center-left support during the Lower House vote, the government reduced the party requirement from 5 to 4 per 1000 and reduced by half from 3% to 1.5% the votes candidates are required to secure in primaries. Small parties expressed concerns that the legislation would eliminate their parties.

Argentine political parties are no longer legally obligated to hold internal party elections to determine candidate slates. Previously, a law established during former President Eduardo Duhalde's administration (2002-2003) required open primaries (for party members and non-members). In December 2006, the law was abrogated with an article included in the Law of Political Parties that established the regulations for internal party elections (for party members only) but made them optional. The revised law stipulated that any party primaries held are for party affiliates only, effectively ruling out primaries for the most important election vehicles - coalitions among several parties. As a result, few primaries are held. For the most part, party slates are decided by party leaders behind closed doors.

Argentina uses the D'Hondt voting system, which allocates seats by calculating averages for each party list based on the number of votes received. Whichever list has the highest average gets a seat, and their average is recalculated given their new seat total. The process is repeated until the seats have been allocated. When a voter enters the voting station, a "fiscal de mesa" checks the voter's identification, registers the voter, and directs the voter to the voting room. Voters enter the "dark room" where they find piles of ballots from different parties as each party provides its own ballot. The voter chooses the ballot for which he intends to vote, folds it, and places it in an envelope. The sealed envelope is then placed in the ballot box just outside the dark room. If a voter wishes to vote for candidates from different ballots, he must tear the ballots to separate the candidates he wants. Then the torn pieces of ballot are placed in the voting envelope.

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