Freedom in the World
Freedom Rating (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Civil Liberties (1 = best, 7 = worst)
Political Rights (1 = best, 7 = worst)
President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner and her Front for Victory (FV) Peronist party were left without a majority in either house of Congress following the June 2009 mid-term elections. The president became increasingly isolated politically, her powers diminished by her unpopularity and an economic recession following six years of uninterrupted growth. Meanwhile, a new media bill adopted in October contained provisions that could potentially limit freedom of expression.
Mid-term elections held in June 2009—described as a plebiscite on the Kirchner regime—brought significant losses to the Kirchners. The Union-PRO coalition fared especially well, capturing 47 seats in the Senate, up from 33. In the lower house, progovernment party representation fell from 141 to 112 of the 257 seats. The government lost four seats in the Senate, bringing the total of Kirchner’s Front for Victory (FV)Peronist party down to 36—one less than needed for a majority. Nestor Kirchner resigned his post as leader of the Peronist Party. The government’s defeat was influenced by growing unemployment and poverty as the country experienced a recession following six years of uninterrupted growth, and by the Kirchners’ resulting diminished powers of patronage. Low approval ratings were also driven by the couple’s personal fortune which had increased six-fold since the 2003 election, leading to claims that they exploited political connections.
Argentina is an electoral democracy. As amended in 1994, the constitution provides for a president elected for four years, with the option of reelection for one additional term. Presidential candidates must win 45 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff. The National Congress consists of the 257-member Chamber of Deputies, directly elected for four years, with half of the seats up for election every two years; and the 72-member Senate, directly elected for six-year terms, with one-third of the seats up for election every two years. The midterm legislative elections in June 2009 were considered free and fair.
Women actively participate in politics in Argentina, as reflected by the 2007 election of President Kirchner and decrees mandating that one third of Congress members be women. However, domestic abuse remains a serious problem. More than 3,000 children are homeless in Buenos Aires, more than double the number prior to Argentina’s 2001 economic collapse.