The Buenos Aires provincial legislature has approved a bill clearing mayors, provincial legislators and municipal councillors to be re-elected for a third term, even in cases where the second term has been incomplete.
Approval was given in an express session on Tuesday, first by the Buenos Aires provincial Senate with the lower house commencing debate a few minutes afterwards and giving final approval to the amendment.
The initiative, which unifies the bill of Juntos Senators Juan Pablo Allan and Joaquín De la Torre with that of the Frente de Todos Senator Gabriela Demaría, adds to Law 14.836, approved in 2016 under governor María Eugenia Vidal’s administration and setting a limit of two consecutive mandates, the possibility of a further re-election for mayors, provincial legislators and municipal councillors without leaving explicit which of their terms should be considered the first.
The bill finally approved, with the legislators of the Renewal Front and the Civic Coalition as well as those responding to ex-governor Vidal voting against, amends Article 7, establishing that "the terms of mayors, municipal and school councillors, deputies and senators beginning as a result of the elections in the years 2017, 2019 and 2021 will be considered as a first term for the effects of the application of the present law."
The initiative is also clear when it specifies that legislators, mayors, municipal and school councillors "will last in their functions the term of four years and may be re-elected to a new term. If they have been re-elected, they may not be elected nor occupy the same post until after the interval of one term."
"Included in the prohibition are all those who have commenced a second term, regardless of whether that term has been served in whole or in part," defines the approved initiative.
This last clause puts a halt to the leaves taken by communal chiefs ahead of completing two consecutive years in their second term in order to be able to run again in 2023.
In the Senate, the initiative was approved with 36 votes in favour, eight against and one abstention. Only four lawmakers from Sergio Massa’s Frente Renovador, two senators aligned to Vidal and two from the Civic Coalition voted against.
Massa, who serves as the speaker of the house in the National Chamber of Deputies, described the move as “a serious mistake” and said he regretted its passage. He said that “no-one” in the ruling coalition should be surprised by his party’s stance.
“It is a serious mistake to raise it while people are demanding work and education," he said "We respect the decision of the majority, but sometimes circumstantial majorities are wrong. No-one in the Frente de Todos can be offended because we have been saying this since day one, when the coalition was formed."
The move to modify the law also prompted a split in the opposition coalition. Only 12 of the 41 deputies in the Juntos por el Cambio provincial lower house bloc voted against the changes.
Vidal was also among those who criticised the change: “They went back to a law that limited the election of a mayor to two mandates and they got one more, allowing them to stay in power for 12 years.”
National deputy Javier Milei, reacting to the news, said the change serving as proof that the political “caste” seeks only to “perpetuate themselves in power."
"The caste is implacable in the defence of its interests. They are capable of doing anything they can to retain power, without the slightest interest of society," Milei told Radio Rivadavia in an interview.
Former president Mauricio Macri, speaking to Radio Mitre Córdoba, said the move "denaturalises democracy."
"With this, we are going backwards," said the opposition leader, who accused some mayors of “falling in love with their own image.”
Taking aim at the ruling coalition, Macri said “Peronist mayors had found a hole in the regulation and felt that there was a space to equalise situations."