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This book explains the essential elements of Argentine constitutionalism – its federal system of government, its long tradition of judicial review, its hyper-presidentialism and weak legislatures, and its striking respect for international human rights instruments and tribunals - but in the context of Argentina's political and economic rollercoaster since 1930. That rollercoaster has allowed few elected governments to complete their terms of office, and has wreaked havoc with security of property and contract as desperate governments default on obligations and control prices. Yet Argentine constitutionalism also establishes some limits that governments cannot violate without a loss of legitimacy.
The book analyses Argentina's constitutional structures in light of recurring tendencies in Argentine constitutionalism, such as a preference for aspirational constitutionalism, adoption of foreign models, competition between sectors organised into highly vertical structures, and protection of certain spheres of power from political competition. It also describes how the formal Constitution interacts with a political system that often ignores representational politics. Thus the book analyses Argentine federalism in light of the need of Governors to placate the President to obtain funding for their provinces, studies separation of powers in terms of Presidential emergency powers and the use of those powers to political advantage, and considers judicial review in terms both of the ability of the judiciary to act as a check on a strong President and of the judiciary as a corporate structure with demands that it places on its members. The resulting system, which offers some real protection for civil liberties such as free speech and freedom from arbitrary arrest, shares traits with many developing countries that value popularly elected government but whose institutions fail to adequately ensure checks on the exercise of power and government responsiveness to social needs.