November 22, 2014
Zamora for tomorrow?
Perhaps now we know why Lower House Speaker Julián Domínguez tipped Santiago del Estero as Argentina’s future new capital — its former two-term governor Gerardo Zamora has just taken the helm of the other House of Congress and in the process become second in the line of presidential succession (as Vice-President Amado Boudou’s courtroom troubles mount). The move obeys an executive rather than legislative branch logic — the Peronist majority in the Senate quite logically feel that one of their own ranks should head the Upper House while Radicals shun their ultra-Kirchnerite colleague as a traitor and every single senator would have cause to resent somebody with only two months in the House rising to the top. Yet this very isolation is probably Zamora’s biggest attraction for President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner — somebody she can trust as wholly dependent on her support. While the outgoing Senate provisional president, Tucumán’s Beatriz Rojkés de Alperovich, has blotted her copy-book in the recent past (finding herself on the wrong side of public opinion with the Marita Verón white slavery trial acquittals, as well as an extravagant trip to Dubai), there can be no doubt that the main reason for the change was a deep presidential mistrust of the Peronist mainstream within the Kirchnerite movement.
Was there a choice other than continuing with Rojkés for another year (as seemed the prospect until Thursday) or CFK‘s known penchant for Zamora? More than one alternative existed. Senate Majority Leader Miguel Angel Pichetto (Victory Front-Río Negro) was clearly the most deserving candidate on seniority grounds. Kirchnerite Radicals would seem to be the bane of Pichetto’s existence — in the biggest setback of his career, the 2008 Senate defeat of the grain export duty bill, one K Radical (the Santiago del Estero Senator Emilio Rached) set up the tied vote which another K Radical (then Vice-President Julio Cobos) unblocked against his own government while in Pichetto’s home province the 28-year Radical domination until 2011 constantly frustrated his ambitions. And now Zamora (also Santiago del Estero). But if CFK insisted on an ultra-loyalist, Neuquén’s Marcelo Fuentes would have been a Peronist entirely fitting the bill.
Not a good message for the separation of powers — if Supreme Court Chief Justice Ricardo Lorenzetti was chosen by his colleagues and not CFK, why not the same logic for the Senate? Evidently the line of presidential succession is a factor but an unfortunate prologue for today’s state-of-the-nation address to open Congress.