Judge María Servini de Cubría today ruled that President Cristina Fernández de Kirchner’s term officially ends at midnight tonight. The decision comes after Fernández’s party confirmed that she will not attend president-elect Mauricio Macri’s inauguration ceremony in Congress on Thursday 10th December.
The court ruling is the latest twist in a heated, almost farcical, power struggle between the outgoing president and the incoming opposition leader that has disrupted preparations for tomorrow’s inauguration ceremony.
The democratic change of leader in Argentina historically consists of two parts: Congress swears in the incoming president, and then the outgoing president hands the presidential sash and baton to the successor.
President Fernández initially wanted the handover to take place at Congress at the same time that Macri is sworn in to office. Macri instead argued that the ceremony should take place at the Casa Rosada, and neither has been willing to back down.
The debate then turned towards the official time at which Fernández’s presidency ends. Macri argued that her term ends the 9th December at 11:59pm, meaning that he has the power to decide where the inauguration ceremonies will take place on the 10th.
The government’s Notary General told press on the 6th December that Fernández’s presidency expires 10th December at midnight or the moment that the incoming president is sworn in, whichever comes first.
Macri was not satisfied with this opinion, and even as negotiations continued, filed a legal injunction arguing that Fernández’s presidency actually ends at midnight on 9th December.
Prosecutor Jorge Di Lello agreed to take on the case and sent the injunction to court. Today the presiding judge, María Servini de Cubría, ruled in favour of Macri and decreed that Fernández’s presidency officially ends at midnight tonight.
Even before the judge’s official ruling, Fernández took the opportunity to announce that she would not attend either part of the ceremony. She argued that by Macri’s reasoning she will no longer be president at the time of the proceedings and therefore has no right to be there.
“We will conclude this discussion, this debate: the President will not attend the handover under these conditions,” head of the Argentine Federal Intelligence agency (AFI), Oscar Parrilli, told press yesterday.
“Under this degree, Argentina will not have a president for 12 hours. This is a grave institutional error. There is little difference between this and a coup d’état.”
In accordance with constitutional procedures, provisional Senate leader Federico Pinedo, of Macri’s PRO party, will be interim president between midnight and the time that Macri is sworn in on the 10th.
In what is now set to be her last public act as leader, President Fernández is due to lead a rally outside the Casa Rosada this evening, during which she will present a bust of her late husband and former president Néstor Kirchner.