The leaders of President Mauricio Macri's key coalition ally, the UCR Radical Party, skipped the national Cabinet meeting Tuesday in what was seen as an expression of protest over the coalition's failure to renew its seat on the Magistrates Council.
The UCR's Senate leader Luis Naidenoff and its Lower House leader Mario Negri skipped the meeting after the Cambiemos coalition lost out to a sudden agreement between two Peronist factions: the Victory Front, responding to former president Cristina Fernández de Kirchner; and presidential hopeful Sergio Massa's Renewal Front.
"The outcome regarding legislative seats on the Magistrates Council is one of the most relevant moments since Cambiemos took power in 2015... The process of Judicial reform and especially the advancement of investigations into acts of corruption have suffered a hard blow. It remains to be seen in the immediate future if this is not also a definitive step backward", the UCR said in a statement, which was signed by the party's president Alfredo Cornejo, Senator Naidenoff and Lamwaker Negri.
The controversy centres around the Lower House's representation on the Council. Following an agreement among Peronists, the Kirchnerite lawmaker Eduardo "Wade" de Pedro and Renewal Front lawmaker Graciela Camaño will replace Kirchnerite Rodolfo Tailhade and UCR radical leader Mario Negri.
"What surprises us and has also prompted deep malaise is the failings among the coalition. As a result, a seat on the Magistrates Council has been affected, one which we have represented since its founding in 1988", the party said. "The failure, malpractice, and political apathy is clear and we are not willing to minimise or hide it".
Internally, Macri government officials are pointing the finger at the Radicals over the loss of the seat, media reports suggest.
On Tuesday, Negro took aim at Victory Front minority leader Agustín Rossi, telling him that the opposition was "united around extortion".
"The Magistrates Council does not put together files (on its enemies)", he said, in reference to an Argentine tradition whereby sensitive information from the Judiciary about a political foe is leaked to the media. "Rather it should open files. That's what the Peronists want to avoid", he added.
"It's ironic to think Argentines could believe that the Kirchnerites could lead us toward greater transparency in the Judiciary", Negri charged.