Following Argentina’s declaration of independence from Spain in 1816, nascent federalism began to emerge in the country when the provinces of Buenos Aires, Entre Ríos, and Santa Fe signed the Federal Pact in 1831, primarily as a means of military defense. The first Argentinean Constitution, which followed in 1853, established a republican division of powers, a high level of independence for the provinces, and a federal power controlled by a strong executive government limited by a bicameral national congress. The principle behind this was to ensure the equitable representation of the population and the provinces. This constitution remains in force today with several amendments. The next half century was turbulent, encompassed by a great deal of political instability, until the passing of Sáenz Peña Law made the political vote mandatory, secret, and universal among males aged eighteen or older.
In 1930, a military coup removed the democratically elected Hipólito Yrigoyen and the armed forces launched a period of authoritarian rule characterized by political instability, persecution of opposition political parties, and electoral fraud which would last for many decades. Between 1946 and 1955 President Juan Domingo Perón increased the political influence of unionized workers and implemented large numbers of public works, albeit under conditions of political repression and media censorship.
The cycle of authoritarian rule finally ended in 1983, following a period of military dictatorship that culminated in the Falklands/Malvinas War of 1982. The return of democracy also saw the return of federalism. Since this time, Argentina has been exposed only to the typical tensions between the central, provincial, and local governments that many federal countries experience. An economic crisis in 2001-02 sparked public protests and the successive resignations of several presidents. Néstor Carlos Kirchner from the Peronist party was elected president in 2003 and was succeeded in 2007 by his wife, Cristina Fernández de Kirchner. Fernández de Kirchner was re-elected for a second term in 2011. In October 2015, Mauricio Macri won the Argentinian presidential election and assumed office as the current president of the country
The federal structure of Argentina divides the country into 23 districts (known as provinces) and the Autonomous City of Buenos Aires. Argentina is a presidential representative democratic republic. The President is both Head of State and Head of the Government, and executive power is exercised by the President. Legislative power is invested both in the Executive and within the Argentinean National Congress, the bicameral legislative branch of the government of Argentina.
The National Congress consists of the upper house – the Senate – and the lower house – the Chamber of Deputies. Senators are elected to six year terms by direct election on a provincial basis, with the party that achieves the most votes awarded two of a province’s three seats in the senate, and the third going to the second-placed party. Members of the Chamber of Deputies are elected to serve four year terms. One half of the members are elected every two years by the people of each district using a proportional representation system.
Each of the Argentinean provinces has its own constitution, laws, authorities, and forms of government, but these institutions must first and foremost comply with the national constitution and federal law. The government of each province has three branches: executive, legislative, and judiciary. The executive branch is led by a governor, while the provincial legislative branch may be organized in a bicameral or unicameral format. Each province, with the exception of Buenos Aires Province, is divided into administrative divisions known as departments, which are in turn divided into municipalities.