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Macri negotiates City electoral reform bill

The Buenos Aires City Legilsature will likely debate the inclusion of primaries into the local electoral arena today.
By Mariano Beldyk
For The Herald

PRO copes with opposition demands on latest session before swearing in of new legislators

Electoral reform is likely to be among today’s topics of discussion in the Buenos Aires City Legislature’s last session before new legislators are sworn in tomorrow. But in order to get it voted — fulfilling the wishes of Mayor Mauricio Macri — PRO policymakers must cope with a series of demands from opposition forces.

For this reason, the single-ballot paper system would not be the only change for Buenos Aires City voters in the next elections.

A PASO primaries bill, similar to the one that now runs at the national level but with major amendments, would also be part of the package.

Another possible card to play would be a Public Ethics bill that some parties, like the UNEN coalition, are demanding for their support of the electoral reform.

Negotiations are ongoing, a highly-ranked City Hall official confirmed to the Herald. And provided there are no last-minute demands from any player at the table, they should reach a safe port today on the chamber floor.

A NEW WAY TO VOTE

The single-ballot paper system was designed to replace the traditional long ballot paper currently used to vote in most Argentine districts.

Santa Fe and Córdoba provinces, however, are exceptions in this field.

Both provinces embraced this system during the 2011 elections, each one with its own characteristics. Buenos Aires City’s choice would be similar to Córdoba’s model, PRO lawmaker Helio Rebot told the Herald.

As head of the Constitutional Affairs Committee in the City Legislature, he has long promoted discussions among the ruling party and its contenders over electoral reform bills.

The single-ballot paper that the PRO proposes includes the three categories of representative that can be elected in the district — mayor, lawmakers and commune representatives — while unifying in all running parties’ top candidates on the same ticket.

Currently, voters find one ticket for each party that takes part in the elections inside the ballot room. If the PRO’s idea prevails, only one ticket would be on the table for citizens to mark their selection.

“This way, the state takes the responsibility of providing all tickets and you put an end to the missing ballots situation during elections”, Rebot told the Herald.

Once this system is enforced — provided it is approved, for a minor sector of Socialist lawmakers prefers the Santa Fe version with separate tickets for each voting category — there would be no need of voting behind close doors.

“People could even do it behind boxes, like in United States,” Rebot said.

How would all parties’ nominees for the Legislature or Communes be listed on a single ticket without turning the ballot paper into a scroll?: By reducing each list to its first three names as a symbolic quota for voters to identify the political force. The complete list for each political party would be printed on posters at voting centres.

Voters would also have an option to select the same party in all three categories with just one mark in a separate box.

Nevertheless, one difference with Córdoba’s system is that there would be no space to choose a blank vote.

In that district, single ballot papers have a special box reserved for this option. Citizens who weren’t aware of it during the single-ballot papers’ debut two years ago and simply left the ticket in blank, had their votes cancelled.

That wouldn’t happen in Buenos Aires City with the PRO’s model, for it would be considered a blank vote.

URUGUAYAN-STYLE PASO

“If the Buenos Aires City mayor’s intentions are true in his bid to move forward with a political reform, let’s do it with all necessary laws and not only with an instrument that only has the purpose of causing a media impact,” UNEN lawmakers said in a news release two days ago.

In the same document, UNEN representatives demanded Macri to also pass a PASO primaries bill for the City district like the one that regulated the August’s primaries for national candidacies together with a Public Ethics Law and a legal framework to watch over public advertising.

At least two of them are likely to be discussed today, provided political forces reach an agreement that is in the works.

The PASO primaries would be similar to the national law on legislative candidacies, athough for the Mayor category, it will copy the system used in Uruguay and the United States, where voters do not select a formula but only the head of government.

The person running for deputy mayor would be a personal choice reserved for winners once the primaries are over, within a limited period of time.

The Public Ethics Law, on the other hand, would not include the creation of any special watchdog agency to control its enforcement as the Anticorruption Office does at the national level. This role would still be accomplished by courts, as it is currently done.

@mibeldyk

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