We are organized as a representative republic. This quality is the master key to democracy, because it guarantees that we all form part of the State and it means that we do so under equal conditions, without discrimination other than those explicitly ordered by the Constitution.
And that representativeness is fully expressed in the form of integration of legislative bodies – national deputies, provincial legislators and deliberative councils- with his enormous decision-making capacity. And the way to choose them and the weight of each one is a fundamental matter of the institutional assembly. There were always discussions on the issue. And already the Constitution of 1819 established, for this purpose, that the national deputies had to represent, each one, 25,000 citizens or fraction. This account and those that followed are all based on the invariable principle of “one man one vote.”
That number was adjusted as the population grew, to preserve a body of adequate size to its best function. Finally, the de facto government set for the new democracy, in 1983, a ratio of 161,000 inhabitants per deputy. And with many deformations by other criteria, that’s where we are.
But here is an explosive issue: the Constitution mandates that the number of deputies per province be set according to the results of national censuses of population that must be carried out every ten years. In this way, agree on the representation according to population changes. It says in its article 45, “After the completion of each census, Congress will set the representation in accordance with it …”
And what happens if that constitutional order is not fulfilled? That representation loses quality and citizens are no longer equal, as there will be districts with increased population that will not improve their presence in the honorable chamber and their inhabitants will be less valuable. Political rights are violated and the public will is clouded, even more so when population changes imply changes in wealth, with provinces rising and others falling.
The constitutional order has not been complied with with the national censuses of 1991, 2001 and 2010. We continue to distribute seats according to the 1980 census. In other words, for the legislative representation Argentina has been without change for forty years. But we have gone from 28 million inhabitants to 45 million today! Where are those 17 million more that the Chamber of Deputies ignores?
The scandalous inequality of this situation has prompted reactions in search of redress. Among them a bill of the deputy Carla Carrizo whose antecedents and studies clarify so many for me. According to the 2010 population data, a national deputy for the province of Buenos Aires represents 222,778 people, one for CABA 115,643 and one from Tierra del Fuego 25,238! What equality is this?
The red light turns on in the province of Buenos Aires, the district that has increased its population the most and its migrant population. And within it, in the suburbs, in the region most affected by inequality policies and most marked by poverty. And thus, the province of Buenos Aires, which accumulates 38.9 percent of the national population, has only 27.2 percent of representatives in the Chamber of Deputies. The deputies that are missing, won’t they be those of the Conurbano? How many? Carla Carrizo calculates in her project that an update would bring the current 70 deputies for Buenos Aires to 97.
How do the provincial leaders view this injustice? Perhaps it is convenient to review the situation of the provincial Legislature where it is also assumed that representation is proportional to the number of voters. The immense and diverse province of Buenos Aires is divided into sections and we can see two of them, very representative for the type of activity and urbanization. The fourth section, which includes 19 Northwest and predominantly rural parties, has 520,564 voters and sends 14 deputies to the provincial Legislature, that is, 1 for every 37,000. The third section, also made up of 19 parties, all from the suburbs and massively urban, has 4,132,955 voters and sends 18 deputies, 1 for every 229,610. I mean, a rural deputy represents six times less than a compatriot from the suburbs. But sitting in the compound, the Conurbano vanishes, it is minimal, it lacks dozens and dozens of deputies.
This concealment of the backward inhabitants of the poor suburbs is also a political postponement, a denial of the political rights that the National Constitution wants equal for all, It happens in the Chamber of Deputies of the Nation and to an even more dramatic degree in the provincial Legislature . And by logic, the economic and social policies and the educational and social security policies that are voted in these great constitutional bodies will not have the blessing and the content of the votes of the poor. We make them poor and absent. And to hell with the “one man one vote” principle!
Of course, the Legislature has also promoted initiatives to change things. One of them, the former provincial senator Carlos Pérez Gresia, tried to soften, with innovative nuances, the impact of the adaptation, since the changes and the game of power interests that are involved are enormous; but it was in the closet.
And so, despite the fact that everyone is aware of the absurdity, the representation calculations in the province of Buenos Aires continue to depend on the Population Census of … 1914!