Tuesday, April 25, 2006

The lame duck National Assembly of El Salvador

A "lame duck" legislative session refers to a meeting of the legislature after an election and before newly elected representatives take their seats. Usually it is a time of little substance.

Tony Saca and ARENA have much different plans for the rest of the lame duck National Assembly. The new National Assembly commences on May 1, and in that Assembly the FMLN will have a greater presence and the ability to block votes such as authorization of borrowing which requires a super-majority, an ability the FMLN currently lacks.

In the last three days of this National Assembly then, Saca seeks to get approval of the foreign borrowing he needs to fund his Red Solidaria program, to fund a program for improving the educational system and other projects. But Saca also wants to get many more laws approved including a law for protection of witnesses, law against terrorism, laws for electoral reforms, and authorization for government wiretaps of telephones. They plan to elect magistrates for the Supreme Court of Justice, and to vote on constitutional amendments to prohibit homosexual marriages, and to change the length of terms for mayors and legislative deputies.

For weeks since the March 12 elections, the ARENA government has been negotiating with all parties other than the FMLN to strike deals to pass this legislation. If all this legislation is passed in the final hours, by many legislators who will not be in office after May 1, many people will appropriately complain. The appearances, if not the reality, are that this legislative flurry is an attempt to circumvent the will of the people expressed in the recent elections.


El-Visitador said...

Oh, come on! There is no statute that limits the Assembly after the elections. Legally speaking, it ain't over until the fat lady sings, and our assemblymen are collecting a paycheck until the very last minute that their elected positions hold. The old Assembly can do whatever the law entitles them to, up until the clock runs out.

Constitutionally, the old Assembly lives on for 6 weeks or so after the election, because, you know, the Elections Tribunal had, by Law, 4 weeks to declare a winner! Of course, some people couldn't be bothered to wait the legal 4 weeks, and started to destroy public and private property... what? 3 days after the elections?

Now, why is there a flurry of bargaining going on now? Why, of course, because a certain party that shall remain unnamed spent the last three years pretty much blocking (whenever they could) anything the Administration proposed, including leaving the General Attorney position vacant for months, as if we did not have plenty of unsolved crimes to prosecute. And boy! Just how moronic is it to oppose Red Solidaria? First, the concept was invented by leftist icon Lula, so it's got impeccable Socialist credentials, and second it works wonders (or at least it will, for about 5 to 10 years, until the thing becomes 100% corrupt and just a form of distributing patronage for the party then in power).

Having said this, I have to say I am dismayed that ARENA is planning to steal 40% of our democracy right before our eyes, in the next 2 or 3 days... ARENA wants Assemblymen and Mayors to be elected every 60 months instead of every 36. Average Salvadoreans will have 40% less chances to express themselves through their votes during their adult lifetimes. It horrifies me that I have not seen a single public voice challenge ARENA's anti-democratic proposal.

It is flabbergasting that ARENA failed to include this "minor detail" in their "2006-2009" legislative proposal book, and shows they cannot be trusted.

Pretty grim situation. So sad. May be a good time to think about emigrating from El Salvador, for our democratic outlook is pretty bleak.

Tim said...

I didn't say I oppose all the legislation -- I just don't think the process is good for governance or public confidence. I think Red Solidaria and the education programs are worth funding. I think the law to protect witnesses is definitely needed. I agree with you on the terms of the mayors and deputies.

Frankly, the approach of the FMLN to be an obstructionist opposition rather than a constructive opposition is part of the problem. So I agree with most of what you say, but I still think the lame duck process stinks. These proposals could have been moved forward before the elections so that the public could consider them as part of their election calculus.

nelson said...

They were elected by the people. It is legal what they are going to do in the next 3 days. Opposition never play fair when they got their time, it was only obtructionist to the proposals at the time. Now ARENA is in Business. Will see what will happend the next 3 years.

Mogul said...

I think we do know how in El Salvador this political class works.
Of anybody it is not known that these things have happened from always in our country, and we did not hope that that changes in a near future.
Unless a new generation borns and breaks with this laborious inheritance

Nelson said...

That's the idea MOGOL. We have to educate, I believe is the best thing we can do.