Supreme Court rejects San Juan governor’s candidacy 

Sergio Uñac was hoping to run for a third term in office

San Juan governor, Sergio Uñac. Credit: Télam

The Supreme Court ruled today that San Juan’s present Governor Sergio Uñac is not eligible to run for reelection this year.

“There is no doubt that enabling a person to be in the highest positions of power in a province for 16 uninterrupted years imposes an intolerably high cost on the values that the republican system embodies,” the Court said in its 51-page ruling.

Uñac, of the ruling coalition Frente de Todos (FdT), was planning on running for a third term in San Juan province’s elections, which the Supreme Court suspended on May 9.

Those initial brakes were applied after Sergio Guillermo Vallejos Mini, of the opposition coalition Juntos por el Cambio (JxC), legally challenged Uñac’s candidacy in the Supreme Court in April. The elections were suspended as a precautionary measure, a legal time-out in order to assess the constitutionality of Uñac’s candidacy.

The crux of the legal challenge was the interpretation of the provincial constitution’s Article 175 which establishes four-year terms for governor and vice governor and that they can enjoy a maximum of two consecutive reelections. Uñac is finishing off his second term as governor and was vice governor before that, so his candidacy would be constitutional only if the reelection limit applied to a specific office — in this case, running for governor because he has been reelected once for that role.

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However, Vallejos Mini contended that  San Juan Electoral Tribunal was wrong to approve Uñac’s candidacy as the decision directly contradicted Article 5 of the National Constitution, which establishes the “republican principle of alternation of power” — a position that the Court upheld in today’s resolution.

The San Juan Electoral Tribunal claimed that alternation is guaranteed under the province’s constitution thanks to the three-term limit and argued that the consecutive reelection limits didn’t apply to candidates switching between governor and vice because the jobs are substantially different.

“The autonomy given to provinces by the National Constitution requires that this type of lawsuits are kept in the remit of their own judges,” said the tribunal, as quoted by the Supreme Court ruling.

However, the Court rejected the notion that the two roles are different because, among other things, the vice governor takes over the gubernatorial role when the governor is out of action.

In a press release (accompanied by an extensive Twitter thread), Uñac said he would abide by the Supreme Court’s decision.

“As I have said, as a lawyer, a man of law, I have and continue to maintain that I will respect the Judicial Power’s institutions and I will comply with what the judiciary sees fit,” Uñac said.  “Although I absolutely do not share the [view] of this decision which reflects, in the worst way possible, the judicialization of politics.”

The title of the press release twists the Spanish for Supreme Court (corte suprema) and reads: “supreme cut to the autonomy of our people.”

He had released a similar statement yesterday, asking for the Court to “rapidly issue a ruling” — remarking today that “at least in that, they were able to listen to us.”

“Even if it was only to consolidate the cancellation of any remaining hope our people had of being able to exercise their democratic right […] to choose a candidate.”

The Court suspending the elections in San Juan and Tucumán caused an explosive political fallout and saw a slew of similar legal requests against politicians in other provinces.

“Far from imparting justice, [the Court] breaks federalism and weakens our democracy,” said President Alberto Fernández on Twitter today. “The people are the ones who always choose.”

San Juan ended up suspending the gubernatorial race and going ahead with the legislative elections for local authorities, in which Peronism won comfortably. The Court clarified that San Juan’s constitution would allow Uñac to run for office again in 2027.

“They can stop a candidate from being democratically elected but they will not be able to destroy a political project that was chosen and ratified by San Juan citizens on May 14,” Uñac said yesterday.


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