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The republican form of government

The political organization of Argentina is based on the federal republican representative form of government, enshrined in the Constitution adopted at Santa Fe on 1 May 1853 by the General Constituent Congress of the Argentine Confederation. That text was amended in 1860, primarily to incorporate the province of Buenos Aires, which had not been a part of the Argentine Confederation in 1853. In 1949, a Constituent Convention replaced the 1853/1860 text with a new one, which was in turn annulled by the provisional Government through a proclamation of 27 April 1956, restoring the previous text. On 22 August 1994, the National Constituent Convention approved amendments to the Constitution, which came into effect on 24 August 1994. Those reforms are for the most part concerned with the organizational part of the Constitution.

The Argentine Republic comprises 23 provinces and the city of Buenos Aires, as follows: Buenos Aires, Catamarca, Corrientes, Córdoba, Chaco, Chubut, Entre Ríos, Formosa, Jujuy, La Pampa, La Rioja, Mendoza, Misiones, Neuquén, Río Negro, Salta, San Juan, San Luis, Santa Cruz, Santa Fe, Santiago del Estero, Tucumán and Tierra del Fuego.

Each province enacts its own constitution, by which it must provide for its own administration of justice and municipal autonomy, and regulates the scope and contents of the institutional, political, administrative, economic and financial system. It elects its own authorities: governor, legislators and other provincial officials. Through their local institutions, the provinces enact their own legislation and are empowered to enter into international agreements as long as they are not incompatible with national foreign policy and do not affect either the powers delegated to the Federal Government or the public standing of the Nation. They may also enter into partial treaties concerning the administration of justice, economic interests or mutually beneficial works, after notifying the Federal Congress.

The provinces may not: enter into partial treaties of a political nature; enact laws on domestic or foreign trade or navigation; establish provincial Customs houses; coin money; establish banks empowered to issue banknotes, without the authorization of the Federal Government; enact civil, commercial, criminal or mining codes after Congress has approved them; enact laws on citizenship and naturalization, bankruptcy, forgery of State currency or documents; impose tonnage dues; commission warships; or appoint or receive foreign agents.

The constitutional legal system created this system of government for the Argentine Nation, as from 1853, based on the separation of the Legislature, the Executive and the Judiciary.

The Judiciary

Judicial power is exercised by the Supreme Court of Justice and other lower courts established by Congress within the national territory (art. 108). In no circumstances may the President exercise judicial functions, assume jurisdiction over pending cases or reopen cases that have been closed (art. 109).

Prior to the reforms, judges were appointed by the Executive with the approval of the Senate. According to the new constitutional text, appointments are based on a binding list of three candidates proposed by the Council of the Magistrature (art. 114). This Council is reconstituted periodically in such a way as to achieve balanced representation of the political bodies resulting from the popular election, judges from all the courts, and lawyers on the federal register, as well as other persons from the academic and scientific fields, the size and structure of the Council being spelled out in the special law establishing it.

The judges of the Supreme Court and lower courts retain their posts as long as they maintain a good standard of conduct (art. 110). They may be removed from office by the decision of an impeachment jury composed of legislators, magistrates and registered lawyers (art. 115), on grounds of poor performance or professional misconduct or for ordinary offences (art. 53).

It is the responsibility of the Supreme Court and lower courts to hear and decide all cases relating to matters governed by the Constitution, the laws of the Nation or treaties with foreign nations; the Supreme Court exercises jurisdiction over appeals in accordance with the rules and exceptions prescribed by Congress.

The foregoing notwithstanding, the Supreme Court has primary and exclusive competence in: cases concerning ambassadors, government procurators and foreign consuls; cases involving the admiralty and maritime jurisdiction; matters in which the Nation is a party; and cases arising between two or more provinces, between one province and the residents of another province, between the residents of different provinces, and between one province and its residents against a foreign State or citizen.

Under the Argentine legal system, the administration of justice is a power shared by the Nation and the provinces. Articles 5 and 123 of the Constitution provide that each province shall enact its own constitution in accordance with the principles, declarations and guarantees of the supreme law, "which ensures its administration of justice". The provinces elect their own officials and judges, without intervention by the Federal Government (art. 122). At the same time, article 31 of the Constitution provides that the Constitution itself, the laws enacted by Congress in pursuance thereof, and treaties with foreign Powers are the supreme law of the Nation, and the authorities of each province are bound thereby, notwithstanding any provision to the contrary which the provincial laws or constitutions may contain.

The Judiciary of each province is responsible for the administration of ordinary justice within that province's territory, applying the codes mentioned in article 75, paragraph 12, namely, the Civil, Commercial, Criminal, Mining, Labour and Social Security Codes - depending on the jurisdiction under which matters or persons lie.

As to national justice, under article 116 of the Constitution the Supreme Court and the lower courts hear and decide all cases relating to matters governed by the Constitution and the laws of the Nation, except those matters falling to the provincial jurisdictions. In these cases, according to article 117, the Supreme Court exercises jurisdiction over appeals.