The fun ends this Friday at 8 a.m. — at least for the rest of the weekend.
On Sunday, millions of Argentinians will head to the polls to vote in their primary elections, better known as PASO. This means that a veda electoral (electoral ban) will be in effect for a period of 36 hours, until voting stations close at 6 p.m. that evening.
The veda impacts all walks of life in Argentina, to one degree or another. Beginning at 8 p.m. on Saturday, Argentines and visitors alike will be prohibited from purchasing or selling alcohol. Those who do face a prison sentence of between 15 days and six months, so plan on opening that bottle of Malbec or liter of Quilmes at home.
These restrictions may seem moralistic to the uninitiated, but the veda isn’t limited to wine and spirits. This weekend, all sporting events, theatrical productions, and open-air shows will be suspended, along with any other public gatherings unrelated to the elections. Many restaurants will remain open but will not be allowed to serve alcohol.
Certain political activities are restricted as well. News outlets cannot publish or disseminate electoral polls and projections about the results of the elections before their completion. Along similar lines, political organizations are unable to distribute ballots or operate offices within 80 meters of a polling station. Transporting arms and bearing flags or insignia within that radius are likewise illegal.
Feeling bombarded with campaign ads of late? Well, Argentina’s political coalitions are also barred from making further appeals to voters during the veda. The logic behind this restriction is that it “gives the voter an opportunity to think, without a constant electoral campaign,” explains Facundo Cruz, a political scientist and member of the Research Center for Democratic Quality (CICaD, by its Spanish acronym). “It’s a moment of reflection for the [Argentine] citizenry.”
Other election-related crimes include: impeding someone’s vote with the threat of violence; forcing someone to vote in a specific manner; preventing someone from voting altogether; voting more than once or without being properly registered; removing or compromising ballot boxes; removing or destroying ballots in the “dark room” (where votes are counted); falsifying or destroying voter rolls; and altering the voting results themselves. Each of these infractions carries a prison sentence of between one and three years.
Argentina is one of fewer than two dozen nations where voting is compulsory — a list that includes neighbors Bolivia, Brazil, and Paraguay. (Chile abandoned mandatory voting in 2012.) Argentines 16 and older are eligible to vote in national elections, although citizens younger than 18 and older than 70 are exempt from any electoral obligations. Those without a legal exception who neglect to cast a ballot are subject to a fine of ARS$50 to $500; failure to pay this penalty can limit one’s access to certain state agencies for a period of one year.
If you’re a foreigner who claims permanent residence in Argentina, you’re likely eligible to vote in provincial and municipal elections, so be sure to check the Electoral Tribunal website to find your voting station. You may be a stranger in a strange land, but that’s no excuse to shirk your civic duty, even if you won’t be subject to a fine for abstaining.
So what exactly are you permitted to do this weekend? Vote, of course. Polls open at 8 a.m. and close at 6 p.m. on Sunday.
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