After years of post-World War II instability, Argentina is today a fully functioning democracy. Former President Carlos Menem's administration (1989-99) reordered Argentina's foreign and domestic policies. His reelection in May 1995--in the face of hardships caused by economic restructuring and exacerbated by the Mexico peso crisis--provided a mandate for Menem's free-market economic strategy and pro-U.S. foreign policy. Menem's second term ended in December 1999; the constitution does not provide for a sitting president to succeed himself more than once. Argentina's current President, Fernando de la Rua, has continued the economic and foreign policy strategies begun by Menem.
The constitution of 1853, as revised in 1994, mandates a separation of powers into executive, legislative, and judicial branches at the national and provincial level. Each province also has its own constitution, roughly mirroring the structure of the national constitution. The president and vice president were traditionally elected indirectly by an electoral college to a single 6-year term and not allowed to seek immediate reelection. Constitutional reforms adopted in August 1994 reduced the presidential term to 4 years, abolished the electoral college in favor of direct voting, and limited the president and vice president to two consecutive terms; they are allowed to stand for a third term or more after an interval of at least one term. The president appoints cabinet ministers and the constitution grants him considerable power, including a line-item veto.
Provinces traditionally sent two senators, elected by provincial legislatures, to the upper house of Congress. Voters in the federal capital of Buenos Aires elected an electoral college which chose the city's senators. The constitution now mandates a transition (beginning in 2001) to direct election for all senators, and the addition of a third senator representing the largest minority party from each province and the capital. The revised constitution reduces senatorial terms from 9 to 6 years. One-third of the Senate will stand for reelection every 2 years.
Members of the Chamber of Deputies are directly elected to 4-year terms. Voters elect half the members of the lower house every 2 years through a system of proportional representation. Other important 1994 constitutional changes included the creation of a senior coordinating minister to serve under the president and autonomy for the city of Buenos Aires, which now elects its own mayor. The constitution establishes the judiciary as an independent government entity. The president appoints members of the Supreme Court with the consent of the Senate. Other federal judges are appointed by the president on the recommendation of a magistrates' council. The Supreme Court has the power, first asserted in 1854, to declare legislative acts unconstitutional.
The two largest political parties are the Justicialist (PJ) or Peronist Party, which evolved out of Juan Peron's efforts in the 1940s to expand the role of labor in the political process, and the Union Civica Radical (UCR), or Radical Civic Union, founded in 1890. Traditionally, the UCR has had more urban middle-class support and the PJ more labor support, but both parties are now broadly based.
A grouping of mostly left-leaning parties and former Peronists--the Front for a Country in Solidarity (FREPASO)--emerged in the 1990s as a serious political contender, especially in the federal capital. In August 1997, the UCR and FREPASO formed a coalition called the Alliance for Work, Justice and Education (the Alliance). Smaller parties occupy various positions on the political spectrum and some are active only in certain provinces. Historically, organized labor (largely tied to the Peronist Party) and the armed forces also have played significant roles in national life. However, labor's political power has been significantly weakened by free market reforms, and the armed forces are firmly under civilian control. Repudiated by the public after a period of military rule (1976-83) marked by human rights violations, economic decline, and military defeat in the 1982 Falkland/Malvinas Islands conflict, the Argentine military today is a downsized, volunteer force focused largely on international peacekeeping.
The De la Rua administration has continued wideranging economic reforms begun by Menem designed to open the Argentine economy and enhance its international competitiveness. Privatization, deregulation, fewer import barriers, and a fixed exchange rate have been cornerstones of this effort. All of these changes have dramatically reduced the role of the Argentine state in regulating the domestic market. The reform agenda, however, remains incomplete, and improvements in the judicial system and provincial administration are still needed, among other areas.
conventional long form: Argentine Republic
conventional short form: Argentina
local long form: Republica Argentina
local short form: Argentina
Data code: AR
Government type: republic
Capital: Buenos Aires
23 provinces (provincias, singular - provincia), and 1 federal district* (distrito federal); Buenos Aires; Catamarca; Chaco; Chubut; Cordoba; Corrientes; Distrito Federal*; Entre Rios; Formosa; Jujuy; La Pampa; La Rioja; Mendoza; Misiones; Neuquen; Rio Negro; Salta; San Juan; San Luis; Santa Cruz; Santa Fe; Santiago del Estero; Tierra del Fuego, Antartica e Islas del Atlantico Sur; Tucuman
note: the US does not recognize any claims to Antarctica
Independence: 9 July 1816 (from Spain)
National holiday: Revolution Day, 25 May (1810)
Constitution: 1 May 1853; revised August 1994
Legal system: mixture of US and West European legal systems; has not accepted compulsory ICJ jurisdiction
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
chief of state: President Fernando DE LA RUA (since 10 December 1999); Vice President Carlos Alberto ALVAREZ (since 10 December 1999); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
head of government: President Fernando DE LA RUA (since 10 December 1999); Vice President Carlos Alberto ALVAREZ (since 10 December 1999); note - the president is both the chief of state and head of government
cabinet: Cabinet appointed by the president
elections: president and vice president elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms; election last held 24 October 1999 (next to be held NA October 2003)
election results: Fernando DE LA RUA elected president; percent of vote - 48.5%
bicameral National Congress or Congreso Nacional consists of the Senate (72 seats; formerly, three members appointed by each of the provincial legislatures; presently transitioning to one-third of the members being elected every two years to six-year terms) and the Chamber of Deputies (257 seats; one-half of the members elected every two years to four-year terms)
elections: Senate - transition phase will begin in 2001 elections when all seats will be fully contested; winners will randomly draw to determine whether they will serve a two-year, four-year, or full six-year term, beginning a rotating cycle renovating a third of the body every two years; Chamber of Deputies - last held 24 October 1999 (next to be held NA October 2001)
election results: Senate - percent of vote by bloc or party - NA; seats by bloc or party - Peronist 40, UCR 20, Frepaso 1, other 11; Chamber of Deputies - percent of vote by bloc or party - NA; seats by bloc or party - Alliance 124 (UCR 85, Frepaso 36, others 3), Peronist 101, AR 12, other 20
Judicial branch: Supreme Court (Corte Suprema), the nine Supreme Court judges are appointed by the president with approval of the Senate
Political parties and leaders: Action for the Republic or AR [Domingo CAVALLO]; Alliance (UCR, Frepaso and others) [leader NA]; Front for a Country in Solidarity or Frepaso (a four-party coalition) [Carlos ALVAREZ]; Justicialist Party or PJ [Carlos Saul MENEM] (Peronist umbrella political organization); Radical Civic Union or UCR [Raul ALFONSIN]; several provincial parties
Political pressure groups and leaders: Argentine Association of Pharmaceutical Labs (CILFA); Argentine Industrial Union (manufacturers' association); Argentine Rural Society (large landowners' association); Armed Forces; business organizations; General Confederation of Labor or CGT (Peronist-leaning umbrella labor organization); Peronist-dominated labor movement; Roman Catholic Church; students
International organization participation: AfDB, Australia Group, BCIE, CCC, ECLAC, FAO, G- 6, G-11, G-15, G-19, G-24, G-77, IADB, IAEA, IBRD, ICAO, ICC, ICFTU, ICRM, IDA, IFAD, IFC, IFRCS, IHO, ILO, IMF, IMO, Inmarsat, Intelsat, Interpol, IOC, IOM, ISO, ITU, LAES, LAIA, Mercosur, MINURSO, MIPONUH, MTCR, NSG, OAS, OPANAL, OPCW, PCA, RG, UN, UN Security Council (temporary), UNCTAD, UNESCO, UNFICYP, UNHCR, UNIDO, UNIKOM, UNITAR, UNMIBH, UNMIK, UNMOP, UNTAET, UNTSO, UNU, UPU, WCL, WFTU, WHO, WIPO, WMO, WToO, WTrO, ZC
Diplomatic representation in the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador Guillermo GONZALEZ Enrique
chancery: 1600 New Hampshire Avenue NW, Washington, DC 20009
telephone:  (202) 238-6400
FAX:  (202) 238-6471
consulate(s) general: Atlanta, Chicago, Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York
Diplomatic representation from the US:
chief of mission: Ambassador (vacant)
embassy: 4300 Colombia, 1425 Buenos Aires
mailing address: international mail: use street address; APO address: Unit 4334, APO AA 34034
telephone:  (1) 777-4533, 4534
FAX:  (1) 777-0197
Flag description: three equal horizontal bands of light blue (top), white, and light blue; centered in the white band is a radiant yellow sun with a human face known as the Sun of May