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Under the National Constitution, Argentina has a representative, republican, and federal form of government.  It is organized under three branches of government: executive, legislative, and judicial.  The legislative branch is bicameral with a House of Deputies and a Senate.  In general, laws originate in either house of Congress through bills introduced by its members or by the executive.  Once approved by both houses, a bill is sent to the President for consideration, and if approved becomes law.

I. Introduction

The current National Constitution of Argentina (Constitución Nacional, CN) was adopted in 1994, when the original 1853 National Constitution was amended.[1]  The 1853 Constitution adopted a representative, republican, and federal form of government.[2]  The government is organized into three branches: the executive, legislative, and judicial.[3]  Under the federal system established by the Constitution, the provincial governments may legislate on subjects assigned to them by the CN, but the CN gives the federal legislature exclusive competence over other subjects.[4]

The executive power is headed by a President, a Vice-President, and Cabinet.[5]  The legislative power consists of a bicameral Congress with a House of Deputies and a Senate,[6] and the judicial power is headed by the Supreme Court and includes all the court systems.[7]

The territory is divided in twenty-three provinces and the City of Buenos Aires. The provinces are 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.[8]  Each province has its own constitution, which must provide for the administration of justice, municipal autonomy, and elementary education within the principles and guarantees stated in the CN.[9]  Each province also has the power to elect its own authorities—governor, legislators, and other provincial officers.[10]  

The CN reserves powers not assigned to the federal government to the provinces.[11]  The provinces are entitled to enter into international agreements, provided they comply with national foreign policy and do not interfere with the powers of the federal government.[12]  They are also allowed to enter into partial treaties supported by the federal government for the purposes of the administration of justice, the local economy, and other public works.[13]

Provinces may not enter into partial treaties on political matters; enact commercial, interior, or exterior navigation laws; establish provincial customs; mint currency; create banks with currency issuance powers without the federal government’s authorization; dictate provisions of the Civil, Commercial, Criminal, and Mining Codes once they have been enacted by the National Congress; pass laws related to citizenship and naturalization, bankruptcy, currency forgery, or state documents; or appoint or receive foreign agents.[14]

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II. Parliament

The Legislative Power of the Nation is vested in a Congress composed of two houses—the House of Deputies and the Senate.[15]

A. House of Deputies

The House of Deputies includes members directly elected by the people of the provinces and the City of Buenos Aires by a simple plurality of votes.[16]  There is one deputy for every 33,000 people or a fraction not under 16,500 people.[17]

To qualify to become a member of the House of Deputies, a person must be twenty-five years old; have had full Argentinean citizenship for at least four years; and be a native of the province that he or she seeks to represent, or have resided in the province for two years immediately prior to seeking office.[18]

A House of Deputies member’s term is four years with the possibility of reelection; elections are held every two years for half the seats of the House.[19]  In case of a vacancy outside of the normal election cycle, the government of the province must call for a special election for a new member.[20]

Bills on tax revenue and the recruitment of troops must be initiated exclusively in the House of Deputies.[21]  The House of Deputies also has the exclusive authority to impeach the President, the Vice-President, the Chief of the Ministerial Cabinet, the Ministers, and the Justices of the Supreme Court for crimes committed while carrying out their duties, or for common crimes, once a decision to bring criminal charges has been made on a majority vote of two-thirds of members present; impeachment trials take place in the Senate.[22]

The last legislative elections to the House of Deputies were held on October 22, 2017.[23]  There are 257 members. The political parties currently represented are as follows:

Cambiemos (ruling party) – 108

Frente para la Victoria (FPV) – 71

Partido Justicialista – 35

Frente Renovador – 23

Izquierda – 4

Others – 16[24]

B. Senate

Three Senators are chosen from each province, and three from the City of Buenos Aires.[25]  They are elected through direct vote, with two of the three seats assigned to the political party that received the highest number of votes and the other seat reserved for the political party with the second-highest number of votes.[26] Each Senator has one vote.[27]

To qualify to be a Senator a candidate must be thirty years old; have held Argentine citizenship for six years; and be a native of the province electing him or her, or have had two years of residency in the province immediately prior to seeking office.[28]  Senators serve for six years and may be indefinitely re-elected.  The Senate is renewed by one-third every two years.[29]

The Vice-President is the President of the Senate.  He does not vote unless there is a tie.[30]

The Senate has exclusive authority to carry out the public trial of those impeached by the House of Deputies.[31] When the President is impeached, the Senate must be presided over by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court.[32] Two-thirds of the members present are required to vote in favor of impeachment in order to render a conviction.[33] A judgement so rendered by the Senate only requires removal of the official from office and disqualifies him or her from holding any other office of honor, trust, or public remuneration in the nation.[34] However, the official will be subject to prosecution and punishment before ordinary criminal courts for crimes related to the impeachment.[35]  The Senate also has the exclusive power to authorize the President to declare a state of siege in one or several areas in the case of an attack by a foreign power.[36]

In the event of vacancy because of death, resignation, or other grounds, the provincial government of the vacancy must immediately call for a special election in order to elect a new member.[37]

The last legislative elections to the House of Deputies were held on October 22, 2017.[38]  There are seventy-two senators. The political parties currently represented are as follows:

Cambiemos (ruling party) – 24

Frente para la Victoria (FPV) – 10

Partido Justicialista – 23

Others – 15[39]

C. Rules Common to Both Houses

Both houses meet every year in ordinary legislative sessions from March 1 to November 30.[40]  The President may call for extraordinary legislative sessions or extend the ordinary one, if needed.[41]

Each house may meet without an absolute majority of its members, but a smaller number may compel the absent members to attend the meetings, under the terms and penalties each house may provide.[42]

Each house adopts its own rules of procedure, and with the concurrence of two-thirds of its members may correct any one of its members for disorderly behavior in the exercise of the member’s duties, or remove the member on physical or moral disability grounds, and may even expel him or her from the body.[43]

Both senators and deputies take an oath to duly perform their duties and to act in all matters in accordance with the provisions established under the CN.[44]

No member of Congress may be accused, interrogated in court, or otherwise disturbed for opinions expressed or speeches delivered by him or her while performing legislative duties.[45]

Senators and members of the House of Deputies have immunity from arrest while in office, except when caught in flagrante committing a crime deserving the most serious punishment.[46]

When criminal proceedings are initiated before ordinary courts against any senator or deputy, each house may suspend the accused member from office upon a vote of two-thirds of its members and place the accused member under the jurisdiction of the competent court.[47]

Either house may call members of the Cabinet for hearings in order to respond and explain matters related to their office as it may deem necessary.[48]

No member of Congress may be appointed to any civil office or commission under the executive power without the prior consent of the respective house.[49] 

Neither regular members of the clergy nor governors while representing their own provinces may be members of Congress.[50] 

Remuneration for Senators and Deputies is set by law and paid out of the National Treasury.[51]

A new law on gender parity passed in 2017 requires that political parties running for seats in Congress offer as many women candidates as men.[52]

D. Powers of Congress

According to the Constitution, Congress has the following powers:

1.        To legislate on customs;

2.        To impose indirect taxes concurrently with the provinces and direct taxes at the national level;

3.        To set and modify tax allocations to the provinces with the [support of] an absolute majority of all the members of each house;

4.        To borrow money on the credit of the Nation;

5.        To manage the use and sale of national lands;

6.        To create and regulate a federal bank with currency issuance power as well as other national banks;

7.        To resolve the domestic and foreign debt of the Nation;

8.        To set the annual general national budget;

9.        To provide subsidies from the National Treasury to provinces that are not able to cover their ordinary expenses through their own revenue;

10.    To regulate navigation of inland rivers and ports;

11.    To mint currency and regulate currency value;

12.    To enact the Civil, Commercial, Criminal, Mining, Labor and Social Security Codes; as well as to enact general laws on immigration and naturalization, on bankruptcy, on counterfeiting of State currency and public documents, and on implementing the right to a jury trial;

13.    To regulate international and inter-provincial trade;

14.    To regulate the national postal service;

15.    To settle national territorial boundaries;

16.    To provide for border security;

17.    To recognize ethnic and cultural rights of indigenous peoples of Argentina;

18.    To provide for the prosperity of the country, for the advancement and welfare of all the provinces, and for the progress of education, promotion of industry, immigration, construction of railways, attraction of foreign capital, and exploration of inland rivers;

19.    To provide for human development, economic progress with social justice, the growth of the national economy, the creation of jobs, the professional training of workers, the defense of currency value, scientific and technological research and development; [and] the protection of cultural identity and plurality;

20.    To establish the court system;

21.    To grant honors and general amnesties;

22.    To accept or reject the resignation of the President or Vice-President, and call a new election when required;

23.    To ratify or reject treaties concluded with other nations and international organizations, and concordats with the Holy See. The following treaties and concordats have constitutional status: The American Declaration of the Rights and Duties of Man; the Universal Declaration of Human Rights; the American Convention on Human Rights; the International Pact on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights; the International Pact on Civil and Political Rights and its empowering Protocol; the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of Genocide; the International Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Racial Discrimination; the Convention on the Elimination of all Forms of Discrimination against Woman; the Convention against Torture and other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatments or Punishments; the Convention on the Rights of the Child.  These treaties are treated as complementing constitutional rights and guarantees;

24.    To legislate and promote equal opportunity and treatment for all, the full benefit and exercise of the rights recognized by this Constitution and by international treaties on human rights in force, particularly those related to children, women, the elderly, and the disabled;

25.    To provide for a comprehensive social security system to protect especially children and the mother during pregnancy and the period of lactation;

26.    To approve treaties of integration delegating powers and jurisdiction to supranational organizations under reciprocal and equal conditions, providing that democratic order and human rights are respected;

27.    To authorize the Executive Power to declare war or peace;

28.    To organize the Armed Forces in times of peace and war; and provide for their structure and government;

29.    To authorize the entry of foreign troops into the territory of the Nation and authorize national troops to go abroad;

30.    To declare the total or partial state of siege in case of a domestic disturbance, and to approve or suspend the state of siege declared by the Executive Power during a congressional recess;

31.    To order the federal intervention of a province or of the City of Buenos Aires. To approve or revoke the intervention decreed by the Executive Power during its recess.

32.     To pass the legislation needed to implement all the powers granted by the CN.[53]

Congress’s legislative powers cannot be delegated to the executive power, except in the case of public emergencies for a limited time and according to the delegating conditions established by Congress.[54]

E. Legislative Process

In general, laws originate in either house of Congress through bills introduced by its members or by the executive power.[55]  Since a 1994 constitutional amendment, bills may be introduced through popular initiatives.[56]  Bills amending the electoral system and those regulating political parties require an absolute majority of all the members of both houses in order to be approved.[57]

When a bill is passed by the house in which it originated, it is sent to the other house for debate.[58]  Once approved by both houses, it is sent to the executive power for consideration, and if approved becomes law.[59]

After the general approval of a bill, each house may delegate the approval in detail of the bill to its committees on an absolute majority vote of its members.[60]  Once a bill is approved by the committee, the ordinary procedures apply.[61]

Any bill not returned by the executive power within ten working days is considered approved.[62]  When a bill is partially rejected, the remaining part may not be approved unless the provisions that were not rejected are self-executing and if their partial approval does not alter the spirit or the unity of the bill approved by Congress.[63]

No bill rejected in whole by either house may be reintroduced in the same year’s legislative session.[64]  If the bill was subject to additions and amendments by the reviewing house, the originating house may approve the bill with the additions or amendments made or insist on the original text, with an absolute majority of its members present, unless the additions or amendments were made by the reviewing house with two-thirds of those members present.[65]  In such a case, the bill is referred to the executive power with the additions or amendments of the revising house, unless the originating house insists on the original text with the vote of two-thirds of the members present.[66]  The originating house is not allowed to include new additions or amendments to those already made by the reviewing house.[67]

If a bill is vetoed in whole or in part by the executive power, it returns to the originating house with the objections.[68]  If confirmed by a majority of two-thirds of the votes of the originating house after reconsideration, the bill returns to the revising house.[69]  If both houses approve it by a two-thirds majority, the bill becomes law and is sent to the executive power for promulgation.[70] 

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Prepared by Graciela Rodriguez-Ferrand
Senior Foreign Law Specialist
February 2018


[1] Constitución Nacional [CN], Boletín Oficial [BO], Jan, 3, 1995, http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infoleg Internet/anexos/0-4999/804/norma.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/S3BN-9NA3.

[2]  Id. art. 1; Organización y Forma de Gobierno, Casa Rosada y Presidencia de la Nación, https://www.casarosada. gob.ar/nuestro-pais/organizacion (last visited Feb. 14, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/YA6G-AAVK.

[3] CN arts. 44, 87, 108.

[4] Id. arts. 5, 6, 75, 121.

[5] Id. arts. 87–88.

[6] Id. art. 44.

[7] Id. art. 108.

[8] Divisón Política de Argentina, Instituto Geográfico Nacional, http://www.ign.gob.ar/NuestrasActividades/ Geografia/DatosArgentina/DivisionPolitica (last visited Feb. 14, 2018), archived at https://perma.cc/YGG3-U9L6.

[9] CN art. 5.

[10] Id. art. 122.

[11] Id. art. 121.

[12] Id. art. 124.

[13] Id. art. 125.

[14] Id. art. 126.

[15] Id. art. 44.

[16] Id. art. 45.

[17] Id.

[18] Id. art. 48.

[19] Id. art. 50.

[20] Id. art. 51.

[21] Id. art. 52.

[22] Id. arts. 53, 59.

[23] Las Elecciones Nacionales Tienen Fecha Confirmada:13 de Agosto para las PASO y 22 de Octubre para las Generales, Clarin (Apr. 5, 2017), https://www.clarin.com/politica/elecciones-nacionales-fecha-confirmada-13-agosto-paso-22-octubre-generales_0_HyYcxwMpx.html, archived at https://perma.cc/6U42-NQM.

[25] CN art. 54.

[26] Id. art. 55.

[27] Id.

[28] Id.

[29] Id. art. 56.

[30] Id. art. 57.

[31] Id. art. 59.

[32] Id.

[33] Id.

[34] Id. art. 60.

[35] Id.

[36] Id. art. 61.

[37] Id. art. 62.

[38] Las Elecciones Nacionales Tienen Fecha Confirmada, supra note 23.

[40] CN art. 63.

[41] Id. art. 64.

[42] Id.

[43] Id. art. 66.

[44] Id. art. 67.

[45] Id. art. 68.

[46] Id. art. 69.

[47] Id. art. 70.

[48] Id. art. 71.

[49] Id. art. 72.

[50] Id. art. 73.

[51] Id. art. 74.

[52] Ley 27412, Paridad de Género en Ámbitos de Representación Política [Gender Parity in Political Representation], BO, Dec. 15, 2017, http://servicios.infoleg.gob.ar/infolegInternet/anexos/300000-304999/304794/norma.htm, archived at https://perma.cc/DGR9-QV9G.

[53] CN art. 75 (translation by author).

[54] Id. art. 76.

[55] Id. art. 77, para 1.

[56] Id. art. 39.

[57] Id. art. 77, para 2.

[58] Id. art. 78.

[59] Id.

[60] Id. art. 79.

[61] Id.

[62] Id. art. 80.

[63] Id.

[64] Id. art. 81.

[65] Id.

[66] Id.

[67] Id.

[68] Id. art. 83.

[69] Id.

[70] Id.

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Last Updated: 07/09/2018