De Vido. Photo via Reuters

After managing to pass the initiative to remove the former Planning Minister, who served during the Kirchner administrations, Julio De Vido from the Chamber of Deputies for “indignity,” the government’s representatives in the Lower House came across a new obstacle they admit they won’t be able to overcome: if things continue down the road they are going, they don’t have the necessary votes to approve the motion, spearheaded by Deputy and co-founder of the Cambiemos coalition, Elisa Carrió.

In order to be approved, the initiative needs for two-thirds of the deputies present in the session vote in its favor, and the government representatives have already anticipated that if everyone attends the session, they won’t be able to get them.

Taking this landscape into account, the leaders of the Cambiemos caucus anticipated that they will take a new approach towards the situation: they will try to block the abstentions and expose those who won’t vote in favor of removing him. 

In an interview with Radio Continental, Cambiemos Deputy Mario Negri said that “the abstention is not neutral” and that article 197 of the Chamber’s rule book contemplates the possibility of having its members determine during a vote that the abstention will be counted as a negative vote. “No deputy will be able to stop voting without the Chamber’s permission,” reads the article which, however, is rarely used.

Considering the possibility, Victory Front (FpV) Parliamentary Secretary Teresa García came out to criticize Cambiemos’ representatives: “when we controlled the house we never prohibited abstentions, there’s no precedent,” she said.

However, Negri did recall a precedent to back up his claim: in 2008, the House voted to strip down Luis Patti from his immunity. A police officer during the last military coup, Patti had been elected to occupy a seat in 2005. In that voting, some deputies from Radical Party (UCR) abstained. Then-leader of the FpV caucus, Agustín Rossi, rejected that option and the President of the Lower House determined that abstentions would be considered as votes in the negative.

Mario Negri. Photo via La Nación
Mario Negri. Photo via La Nación

“It’s not to demonize anyone, but to get everyone to say how responsible the deputy [De Vido] is and how they analyze his behavior,” Negri pointed out.

If the 257 deputies attend the session, De Vido will need the support of at least 85 of his peers — assuming he will vote in his own interest — to keep his seat. According to Clarín, he has 93 votes at the moment, counting votes against his removal and abstentions. Most of them will come from the FpV caucus, while the other ones are from the Evita Movement and from deputies from provinces who have good relations with the FpV.

The four deputies from the leftist parties anticipated that they will abstain. Not because they support De Vido, but because they argue that the initiative would set a dangerous precedent: it could open a door for more cases like this one in the future and, since they have an ideology that is diametrically opposed to most of their counterparts, they could be the next targets. Negri emphatically denied this could be the case — “we won’t throw a peer out the window every week,” he said last Friday — but they have already made up their mind about it.

The Committee of Constitutional Affairs is set to approve the motion tomorrow and will send it to the floor the following day. We will likely see a heated debate. If the government representatives don’t get to remove De Vido from the Lower House, they appear set on making those who oppose their measure pay the political cost of defending someone who currently has 156 active cases against him within the Federal Justice Department and five indictments.