One of the axes of the Government of Rodolfo Suarez was to insist on this modification and for this, the Executive drew up a bill on the need for institutional reform which was formally presented in February of last year. Because it was an election year, because there was not enough consensus and because of pettiness on the part of each other, it was not even discussed in the Legislature and there it remained, waiting for a new impulse that, as the ruling party promises, will be given as of February, when the extraordinary sessions resume.
The unicamerality promises to be one of the pain points. For both legislators from Cambia Mendoza and opposition legislators, the very idea of reducing the Legislature to a single chamber already makes noise. And they have their arguments for it.
The Minister of Government of the province, Víctor Ibáñez, is the maximum defender of the project that bears his imprint: “We propose the unicamerality, with 48 legislators, with 18 of them elected, one for each department. In this way, territorial representation is guaranteed. These 18 would be accompanied by another 30, reformulating the proposal of the electoral districts. It is proposed that these 30 legislators be elected by a proportional system, as has been the case up to now.”
The unicamerality, they explain from the Executive, “seeks not only to reduce public spending but also to provide more dynamism to the Legislature.”
The voices for and against the unicamerality
“I am in favor of the unicamerality but we cannot stay with that,” Jorge Andrés Difonso tells Diario UNO (Popular Union, an ally of the Cambia Mendoza Front), president of the Commission for Legislation and Constitutional Affairs (LAC) of the Chamber of Deputies.
Difonso’s proposal is to go beyond the Legislature with the reform and also modify the composition of the deliberative councils “to ensure representation from all regions.”
“Councilors can be reduced from 196 to 30 but grouped into regions, because if you work associatively on common issues you can redistribute the spending of some services on others”, explains the deputy.
“The need of the situation today means that the State has to be more effective, so what what is needed is a comprehensive reform, of the State as such, not only of the Legislature,” adds the former mayor of San Carlos.
Specifically on the bicamerality and the function of the reviewing chamber that would be lost in the event of moving to a unicamerality -unless the Cordovan model was adopted in which the chamber itself reviews the laws a few weeks after they are approved-, Jorge Difonso understands that “if there were an atomization of forces, that function could be fulfilled, but today, reality shows that the blocs always vote the same, that is to say that what was voted in one way in Deputies is voted the same in Senators and vice versa, due to how the composition of the chambers is proposed.
Y “spending could be reordered and centralism would not be considered. What must be guaranteed is that the Legislature functions well.”
Now, says Difonso, already thinking about the discussion that could take place this year in the Legislature to give way to the constitutional referendum and the subsequent formation of the Constituent Convention: “In order to reach an agreement and thus be able to reform the Constitution, The Executive should promote awareness, organize conferences and discuss the project”.
One, if not the one who knows the most about Legislature is Senator Juan Carlos Jaliff (UCR- Cambia Mendoza), who will leave his bench at the end of April after more than 12 years in the House of Laws. Y is in marked opposition to the proposed text for his party, although he recognizes that “as a bloc, we are going to accompany Governor’s project.
“I have always been a defender of the bicameral system,” Jaliff says, but what he wants to make clear is that it is not the legislators who have the legitimacy to reform the Constitution, but that “the reform can be given as long as the citizens enable it and, then, the conventional constituents, with representation of all the political parties, do it”.
“The people of Mendoza are the ones who decide, first ratifying the law (of the need for the reform) and then electing the conventional ones, regardless of the opinion that we legislators have on each issue”, clarifies Jaliff very seriously, while explaining his position step by step in a pleasant talk telephone.
“This must be made clear because some out of ignorance and others out of bad faith have established that it is the legislators who transform the Constitution“, he says firmly.
And why do you advocate bicamerality? “Because the laws are very important and there has to be a review chamber”.
“I am aware -he acknowledges- that 85% of the provinces have opted for a unicameral system and, If this path is followed in Mendoza, I think we should go towards a system that gives more representation to the departments.. Hence I emphasize that The new system of distribution of legislators that also enshrines the reform law is very good, which proposes an equitable distribution, with 18 elected legislators, one for each department, and the remaining 30 per district”.
Jaliff does not lose hope that the need for institutional reform will be approved in the Legislature this year, with or without him sitting on the bench. “The opposition should allow the people to decide. We do not ask that they accompany the reform but rather the proposal of necessity of it,” he says.
And more voices against the unicamerality also appear from the Frente Cambia Mendoza, no longer from the radical caucus, but from that of the PRO. “This dissent does not mean that we are not going to accompany, but it does mean that we will raise the need to make some modifications to the project,” they say from Mauricio Macri’s party.
When asked about this possibility, the president of the Chamber of Deputies, Andrés Lombardi, had already told Diario UNO that it was not a “closed project” so they could be discussed in advance to analyze them and enter them in committee, if necessary.
One of the most vehement in demonstrating against the unicamerality is the elected senator Gabriel Pradines. Once he takes office in May of this year, he will be the youngest in the upper house, with his 31 years in tow. Perhaps that impetus of youth is what leads him to fervently defend the Republic, as he says.
“The province with the most transparent institutions in the country is Mendoza and one of the reasons is the division of powers and the lack of reelection of the governor. What you have to do is control and improve them. The Legislative controls the Executive and the Judiciary controls us all”. Thus begins his argument, studied by the way.
“The Legislature has a $2.5 billion budget, that is, 0.6% of the provisional budget. Of the 1,100 members of the Legislature, only 86 are voted for by the people, the legislators, who in turn have an average of 2.5 advisers each, which are necessary for the production of the bills because they specialize in different areas. In other words, the other 900 are a permanent plant and no matter how much a camera is reduced, they will continue to be“, he explains in detail by phone, while accompanying a report via Whatsapp.
“So,” he wonders, Is it worth defraying the institutional framework for such a low cost reduction?“.
“Minister Ibáñez, as coordinator of the Cabinet, has six times more budget than the entire Legislature. You hit the Legislature when the rest of the government areas have excessive expenses. The argument of the unicamerality for the reduction of expenses not only undermines the institutionality of Mendoza but is also false“says the PRO senator-elect crudely.
What Pradines does recognize in the middle of the talk is that those numbers were arrived at after “an important adjustment and cost savings that Parés and Lombardi were able to make”, in their mandates as presidents of the chamber of deputies.
And the opposition? Time and time again they clarified from the Front of All that The position that Peronism will adopt regarding the need to reform the Constitution will be known once the sessions resume, when “the analysis will continue to define” what will be raised from the block.
However, if we take into account previous declarations regarding the unicamerality, we will have a preview. “The project proposes that there be no intermediate elections, that it is a risk for the institutionality of Mendoza. If to that we add the unicamerality it is almost a government without control of the opposition“, He said Lucas Ilardo, president of the Frente de Todos bloc in the Senate.
“I understand that the priority of the people of Mendoza is the lack of work, the pandemic and above all the insecurity of recent times. We are going to give it the time this reform needs, not a rushed treatment,” he added last year when Peronism he gave the bill a thumbs down before discussing it in the Legislature.