Maria Eugenia Vidal.  In 2016, as Buenos Aires governor, she promoted the law to prohibit the re-election of mayors (Photo: Télam).

The Buenos Aires politics walks slowly but surely towards a strong judicial fight, while the Government of the province of Buenos Aires and the national government add more and more mayors in management positions. Law 14836 promoted in 2016 in an agreement between the then administration of María Eugenia Vidal and the space of Sergio Massa (distant at that time from Kirchnerism), removed the indefinite re-elections and limited them to only two consecutive periods.

As 2023 approaches, they are getting older the pressure from communal chiefs to find a way out of the norm. There are different ways and devices: the challenge of the legislative letter, requests for advance license or directly the reform of the law. All carry dangers of political cost.

The discussion goes through both the internal of Peronism and, to a lesser extent, the opposition. With current law, some 95 of the 135 mayors could not be reelected in 2023. The situation affects both the mayors of the Frente de Todos and those of Juntos por el Cambio alike.

Rerelection: what arguments could the mayors use in 2023

The 2016 rule establishes that the “Mayor and the Councilors will be elected directly by the people, will last in their functions for a term of four (4) years and may be re-elected for a new period. If they have been re-elected they will not be able to be elected in the same position, but with an interval of a period ”.

On the other hand, it established that “the period of the Mayors, Councilors, School Counselors, Deputies and Senators upon the entry into force of this Law it will be considered as the first period ”. And there a problem arises: the mayors had been elected the previous year, in 2015. With which, by the norm, they were already running the first of the two allowed terms.

Maria Eugenia Vidal. In 2016, as Buenos Aires governor, she promoted the law to prohibit the re-election of mayors (Photo: Télam).

A first argument is born there: question the retroactivity of the rule.

On the other hand, the Provincial Decree 265/19 that regulated Law No. 14,836 states: “To determine that the prohibition of reelection for a third consecutive term covers those who, having been reelected in the same position for a second consecutive term, have assumed their functions and exercised for more than two years, continuous or alternating”.

The second argument, then, is rather a contraption: a significant number of communal chiefs consider that, when taking leave before having completed half of the mandate, they would be able to compete again by the intendancy in 2023. Although the mayors do not resign, they ask for a license: the regulations do not establish a distinction. The interpretation is thus open.

Mayors to the cabinets: who are the communal chiefs who could try to break the law

In recent times, the Government of Alberto Fernandez at the national level, and the Government of Axel Kicillof in the province of Buenos Aires, mayors added to their cabinets that, although resigning from office is always an option, they chose to take leave from the administration of their parties.

Gabriel Katopodis and Jorge Ferraresi: two of the Buenos Aires mayors who today work as national ministers (Photo: Télam).
Gabriel Katopodis and Jorge Ferraresi: two of the Buenos Aires mayors who today work as national ministers (Photo: Télam).

Gabriel Katopodis He has been mayor of General San Martín since 2011, reelected in 2015 and 2019. However, in December of that year he was called by Alberto Fernández to occupy the Ministry of Public Works of the Nation; Jorge Ferraresi He is mayor of Avellaneda no less than since 2009, but in November 2020 he became the Minister of Habitat; Juan Zabaleta He was elected for the first time mayor of Hurlingham in 2015, reelected in 2019, and took office in August of this year in the Ministry of Social Development. It is also found Santiago Maggiotti, Mayor of Navarro since 2011 and now National Secretary of Habitat.

After the harsh defeat for the ruling party in the PASO of September 12, Governor Axel Kicillof added, by order of Máximo Kirchner (and therefore Vice President Cristina Kirchner), three mayors to his cabinet. Martin Insaurralde, from Lomas de Zamora, is the new provincial chief of Cabinet; Leonardo Nardini, from Malvinas Argentinas, the new Minister of Infrastructure and Public Services.

In the last hours, Kicillof added the mayor of Punta Indio, Hernan Yzurieta, which will take over in the provincial highway. The three, according to the law, would not be allowed to appear again in 2023.

The mayor of Lomas de Zamora, Martín Insaurralde, was sworn in as Chief of Cabinet of the Government of Axel Kicillof (Photo: Buenos Aires).
The mayor of Lomas de Zamora, Martín Insaurralde, was sworn in as Chief of Cabinet of the Government of Axel Kicillof (Photo: Buenos Aires).

To the list you could add mayors who stood as candidates in this year’s elections and they could request a license in case of obtaining the seats, as is the case of Mariano Cascallares (Almirante Brown), head in the list of provincial deputies in the Third Section, or Carlos Puglielli (San Andrés de Giles) who competes for the Second section , among many others.

The legal and political fight that opens the re-election of the mayors

Either by challenging the “retroactivity” of the law enacted in 2016, or through the device of requesting a license before the middle of the mandate, Everything indicates that the issue, if there is a will, will end up being prosecuted.

“It may be the case that there are legal presentations. If this were the case, the Supreme Court of Justice of Buenos Aires would have to give an opinion, and then the Supreme Court of the Nation itself. But now the Supreme Court in three cases has prohibited re-elections, based on what the provincial constitutions established when it was wanted to exceed the limits set for Santiago del Estero, La Rioja and Río Negro. There is already a consolidated opinion ”, the doctor tells TN.com.ar Antonio Maria Hernandez, expert in municipal law.

In 2019, the Supreme Court of the Nation rejected that the governors of La Rioja, Sergio Casas, and Río Negro, Alberto Weretilneck, could stand as candidates to seek their re-election in the elections of that year.

But, in addition to a possible judicial obstacle, about which it is difficult to be completely sure of the result, there are also a series of political obstacles.

One option to enable the re-election of mayors would logically be modify the initiative in the Legislature of the province of Buenos Aires. However, the ruling party is far from having a majority in the provincial Senate, and everything indicates that this possibility, if the results of the September STEP are repeated or expanded in November, will be even further away, even jeopardizing the quorum of deputies for the ruling party.

Máximo Kirchner, head of La Cámpora, national deputy for Buenos Aires and son of Vice President Cristina Kirchner (Photo: Télam).
Máximo Kirchner, head of La Cámpora, national deputy for Buenos Aires and son of Vice President Cristina Kirchner (Photo: Télam).

But, both to open that political fight, and to start a path of judicial struggle, political will is required. And that, curiously, is not guaranteed for the mayors of Peronism either. According to Buenos Aires sources, neither Máximo Kirchner (head of the Campora, and national deputy for the Province), nor the governor Axel Kicillof have shown much interest in accompanying that battle. Nobody wants to give away possible places of power: camping continues to bet on gaining territory among the Buenos Aires mayors.

In Together for Change there is also discussion: dozens of mayors will have to leave their place in 2023 but, according to the main referents of the opposition coalition, there is a general consensus that it is not possible to advance along this path, even more so considering that the law was promoted by the government of María Eugenia Vidal itself . Nothing would prevent, However, that before an alien presentation and a change of rules may be mayors who take advantage of the situation.

It will, in any case, be a matter of timing, situations, and potential political costs.

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