Judicial Independence and the Rule of Law: Lessons from Post-Menem Argentina
30 Pages Posted: 8 Aug 2006 Last revised: 27 Feb 2010
Date Written: 2007
Argentina, like much of Latin America, has historically been plagued by what some call delegative democracy or a democracy without any developed rule of law. However, the Kirchner Administration has brought a glimmer of hope to the twentieth-first-century Argentine democracy. President Néstor Kirchner was elected in 2003, after what was probably the most serious institutional, financial, and economic crisis in Argentina in recent times. When elected, Kirchner promised to address the perceived lack of independence of the Supreme Court and to restore the rule of law. This paper explains why Kirchner's efforts, without more, will not be enough to (re-)build the rule of law in Argentina. Moreover, the Argentine case study provides several important lessons for those promoting the rule of law in developing countries. This paper focuses of three of those lessons. Lesson No. 1 involves contextualizing Kirchner's reforms, so that they can be evaluated within the particular institutions and local context that have shaped existing norms. Lesson No. 2 discusses why Kirchner's reforms are not enough to rebuild the rule of law and why a more diversified approach is needed. This Lesson also looks specifically at the role of state-building and the importance of combating corruption and restoring transparency to the political process. Lesson No. No. 3 emphasizes public trust and patience.
Keywords: judicial reform, rule of law, Argentina, Latin America, judicial independence, democracy
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