Government allies blast move as hypocriticalThursday, June 5, 2014
Capitanich speaks to half-empty Lower House as opposition walks out
As the session was beginning, members of the Broad Front-UNEN, Renewal Front and PRO caucuses made a point of showing themselves in the Salón de los Pasos Perdidos outside of the Chamber. Inside, the ruling Victory Front (FpV), members of left-wing sectors such as Workers’ Leftist Front (FIT) and Camino Popular were joined by some of the dissident Peronist groups such as the FE Peronist and Federal Commitments caucuses.
In total,132 of the 257 national lawmakers were in their seats to listen to Capitanich first give a progress report on the administration’s programmes and then answer questions.
Instead of speaking for an uninterrupted 11 hours, Capitanich concluded his presentation after about three-and-a-half hours.
Earlier in the week, the right side of the Lower House was empty as the opposition tried to debate the income tax. But yesterday it was the left side that was barren.
Lawmaker Juliana Di Tullio, president of the FpV in the Lower House, commended the presence of the few opposition lawmakers who were inside the chamber, calling it a “sad day.” Di Tullio went on to say that she considered the opposition’s absence “an unprecedented move that has serious institutional implications” because they “are failing to meet their constitutional obligations to represent the Argentine people in the chamber.”
President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner, speaking at a rally later in the day, told the Cabinet chief that “one must be coherent, and they left you on your own.” The president of the Lower House, FpV lawmaker Julián Domínguez, espoused a similar message, saying that “some spend all day asking for the Cabinet chief to come speak, but when he visits, they leave.”
Former Cabinet chief Juan Manuel Abal Medina came under heavy criticism from the opposition for not making monthly presentations to the Congress and Capitanich has made it a point to assiduously attend his parliamentary appointments.
Nonetheless, opposition lawmakers, including some who attended yesterday’s session, complained that the Cabinet chief’s answers were incomplete or altogether missing. By the same token, the Cabinet chief’s office is reported to regularly receive hundreds of questions in writing from the entire opposition before each address to Congress.
However, the primary complaints were not about Capitanich’s presence but rather how the Lower House is currently operating. The presidents of the UCR, PRO, Renewal Front, Socialist Party, Libres del Sur, GEN-Broad Progressive Front, Córdoba Civic Front and Trabajo y Dignidad, UNEN Suma + caucuses, justified their decision to refrain from attending on the “approach taken by the FpV to hold sessions such that only proposals from the Executive branch are considered.”
Federico Pinedo, president of the PRO caucus, told the Herald that while “Capitanich certainly doesn’t help,” the primary motivation for their absence was the “way the Lower House is functioning,” and that it was important to “make a point.”
Camino Popular leader Claudio Lozano told the Herald that it “is positive that Capitanich is here, it’s an opportunity to raise issues with the Executive Branch” and as such that he didn’t share the opposition’s reticence to participate in the session.