Argentina’s president to abide by Supreme Court ruling on funding

Alberto Fernandez calls decision to award more funding to conservative Buenos Aires ‘unfair’ but reverses stance from last week.

Argentina's President Alberto Fernandez
Argentine President Alberto Fernandez has denounced a Supreme Court decision to increase funding for the capital, Buenos Aires, as a partisan move [File: Gabriel Bouys/pool via Reuters]

Argentina’s president, Alberto Fernandez, says he will accept an “unfair” ruling by the Supreme Court that sets aside a larger share of government funding for the capital, Buenos Aires, reversing his pledge from last week to defy the court’s decision.

Fernandez affirmed the Supreme Court’s ruling in a Twitter post on Monday, writing: “Judicial rulings are binding even when they are deemed to be disadvantageous and unfair.”

The centre-left politician drew backlash and sparked a legal crisis after he announced on Thursday that he would reject the ruling. Fernandez had denounced the court’s decision as politically motivated and argued it would hurt other provinces.

Argentina is set to hold a general election in 2023 when the presidency and control of Congress will be up for grabs.

The court had ruled on December 21 that the portion of federal funding distributed to Buenos Aires should be increased from 1.4 percent to 2.95 percent, the level of funding it received prior to government cuts in 2020 during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Buenos Aires is the wealthiest and most populous region of the country, and the capital’s conservative mayor, Horacio Rodriguez Larreta, had called for a restoration of previous funding levels. He is seen as a potential candidate in the 2023 presidential election.

Fernandez criticised the court’s ruling as “unprecedented, incongruous and impossible to enforce”. He promised to seek a reversal of the decision, prompting critics to accuse him of challenging the independence of the judiciary.

“The president decided to break the constitutional order, completely violate the rule of law and attack democracy,” Rodriguez Larreta responded.

However, some politicians — including the governor of Buenos Aires province, Axel Kicillof, a member of Fernandez’s Justicialist Party — sided with the president. Kicillof said that under current conditions, the Supreme Court’s measure would be “impossible to comply with”.

“There are already 18 governors who denounce the partisan decision of the Supreme Court to benefit the head of the city government against all the provinces,” Kicillof said.

Fernandez, who has seen his popularity slide and whose ruling coalition was badly defeated in midterm congressional elections last year, has faced other recent challenges to his administration. The tensions between Fernandez and the Supreme Court developed just two weeks after a federal court found Vice President Cristina Fernandez de Kirchner guilty in a high-profile corruption case.

Prosecutors said the vice president participated in a scheme to award public works contracts to a family friend. Kirchner has rejected the allegations as false, calling them a “staged fable”.

Kirchner was sentenced to six years in prison and disqualified from holding public office. However, she is expected to appeal the decision and is unlikely to serve prison time anytime soon due to governmental immunity.

The prosecution of Kirchner, whose supporters poured into the streets following an assassination attempt against her in September, has highlighted divides in Argentina as it faces an economic crisis and high inflation.

The case could also cast a shadow over the Fernandez administration as the president faces conservative opposition in the 2023 general election.

Source: Al Jazeera, Reuters