Saturday, October 24, 2015
Congressional power in the balance
Victory Front could lose its quorum in the Lower House after tomorrow’s election
The focus of tomorrow’s elections has been placed squarely on the presidential race, but voters will also settle the precise balance of power in a new Congress that will most likely see the ruling Victory Front (FpV) consolidate its influence in the Senate while ceding ground in the Lower House.
Even if the presidential race goes to a runoff, matters in Congress will be settled after tomorrow’s vote — setting the Legislative stage for whomever ends up winning.
Half of the 257-seat Lower House of Congress is up for grabs and if the results from the August 9 primaries hold , the FpV and allies are set to lose their quorum and slim majority they have used to push legislation through. Provided that there are no major swings in the vote, the FpV is set to fall to about 100 lawmakers from its current 118.
The decline would not be so much due a poor result in the elections but rather a reflection of the wave of popular support in 2011 that earned the FpV 77 seats in the Lower House. As the FpV is not expected to once again pick up 54 percent of the popular vote tomorrow in the way that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner did in 2011, there could be a net loss of 18 or 19 lawmakers. Since the primaries the FpV lost lawmaker Alex Zeigler of Misiones province, who has decided to run under the Let’s Change ticket.
The FpV’s various allies are projected to lose three spots of their own, declining to 19 in total. The sum of the FpV and its allies will mean that it will be able to count on roughly 119 lawmakers — 10 short of the 129 needed to establish quorum in the Lower House.
Such are the numbers that the FpV will still comfortably have the largest caucus, granting it the right claim the highly valuable position of speaker. Current Speaker Julián Domínguez has been tapped to be Daniel Scioli’s Industry minister and doesn’t appear on any of the FpV’s ballots after his defeat to Cabinet Chief Aníbal Fernández in the FpV primaries in the Buenos Aires gubernatorial race.
The Lower House will have to elect its new speaker in early December but there is already speculation that presidential Chief-of-Staff Eduardo “Wado” de Pedro, Scioli’s provincial Interior Minister Cristina Alvarez Rodríguez and outgoing San Juan Governor José Luis Gioja to a lesser extent are possible candidates for the position. Not only does the speaker play a crucial role in determining how the Lower House functions, he or she is third in the presidential line of succession in cases of incapacity, death or removal from office.
De Pedro, a key member of La Cámpora, the FpV’s youth wing, is at the head of the party’s ballot in Buenos Aires province. Máximo Kirchner, the president’s son, is on the ballot for Santa Cruz province and he is expected to be one of the approximately 25 Cámpora representatives in the FpV caucus. Juliana di Tullio is the chair of the caucus, but it remains to be seen if she will continue to hold that position in the next Congress