Photo via Minuto Ya

Do you remember how the government considered electoral reform as key to making sure next year’s determinant mid-term elections go smoothly (read: without the usual fraud allegations)? Well, that’s not going to happen. 

After holding a meeting with the provincial governors aligned with Peronist parties — the Justicialist Party (PJ) and the Victory Front (FpV) — the senators who follow the same ideological lines confirmed in a press release they won’t support the government’s initiative, even though it had received widespread support in the Lower House. The release explained that there are major “security flaws” with the proposed electronic ballot. And considering they hold 40 out of the 72 seats in the Upper House, adding up to a death sentence for the project.

While the release doesn’t clarify they will block the bill explicitly, the senators’ decision to “keep analyzing tools that allow the improvement of the electoral system” has basically the same practical effect, considering the legislative year is about to finish and that the government would need to approve the law this year if it wants to implement it before next year’s elections.

It didn’t take long for key members of the Macri administration to come out and show their discontent and attributed the sudden change of heart to their intention to “maintain feudal systems in their provinces.”

“They clearly signed they would rather keep their feudal power in many provinces rather than listening to the people’s demands for transparent elections,” Secretary of Political Affairs Adrián Perez told La Nación.

By feudal system, Perez is arguing that several governors exercise control in their provinces during long periods of time through patronage systems. The changes that a political reform would bring, he claims, could hurt the governors’ influence over their constituents so they took it down as a way of securing their feuds provinces.

Examples of this influence in practice are: the giving of goods, usually bags of food, in exchange for votes in the days ahead to the elections and mainly, the theft of ballots from opposite parties on election day. Parties that hold a great deal of influence in a certain territory are usually accused of influencing the elections this way through controversial figures called Punteros which are people who unofficially work for a party, usually in vulnerable neighborhoods, and are in charge of influencing election outcomes using tactics that are not necessarily in accordance to the law.

Photo via Infobae
Photo via Infobae

Less populated provinces hold a greater deal of power in the senate because each one of the 24 jurisdictions has the same amount of representatives, regardless of their number of inhabitants. The Lower House, on the contrary, has proportional representation and politics at a national scale has a much more important role. It’s not coincidence that most opposition leaders hold a seat in the Lower House — Sergio Massa, Margarita Stolbizer, Axel Kiciloff, to name a few — rather than its Upper counterpart and use it as a platform to run for office.

Despite the blow, Perez told La Nación that the Macri administration intends to keep working for an electoral reform, “thinking of people and despite the resistance from feudal political apparatuses.”

“We will keep working to finish with ballot theft, poor vote tallying, delays in results, because that’s what citizens want,” he added.

Voices from the National Electoral Chamber, the government’s body in charge of elections, also came out to show their discontent: “this is a massive step backwards. The current system needs to be changed,” an official from the chamber told Infobae.