Argentine President Alberto Fernandez said he would seek the dismissal of the country’s chief justice for “repeatedly engaging in conduct” that constituted “poor performance of his duties”.
Fernandez said on Tuesday he had signed the motion to remove Chief Justice Horacio Rosati and several other members of the court, escalating his battle with the country’s supreme court. The order was also signed by a number of provincial governors.
Fernandez’s statement did not specify what behavior was at issue. But the move comes after the president clashed with the court over a decision in December to allocate more state money to the capital, Buenos Aires, led by right-wing opposition leader Horacio Rodriguez Larreta.
The court ruled on Dec. 21 that the share of federal funding distributed to Buenos Aires must be increased from 1.4% to 2.95% — the level of funding it received before government cuts in 2020 during the COVID pandemic.
But Fernandez said on December 23 that he would not respect the ruling, prompting criticism that it would undermine the independence of the judiciary. He criticized the decision as “unprecedented, contradictory and impossible to implement”.
The president’s allies argued that the court’s decision would divert money from other provinces to Buenos Aires, the country’s richest and most populous region. Decreased funding during COVID-19 has allowed the government to increase the salaries of law enforcement in neighboring counties.
But Buenos Aires Mayor Rodriguez Larreta accused Fernandez of trying to “break the constitutional order, completely violate the rule of law and attack democracy.”
In the face of criticism, Fernandez changed course, stating that he would accept the court’s decision while seeking damages for the financing case. He said last week that “judicial decisions are binding even when they are considered unfavorable and unfair.”
Tuesday’s move to seek the removal of top court justices is unlikely to lead to a vote, as Fernandez’s Peronist coalition in Congress lacks the two-thirds majority needed to fire court officials.
Fernandez’s progressive coalition — nicknamed “Fronto Todos” or “Everyone’s Front” — suffered setbacks in Congress in the 2021 midterm elections. The president could face challenges in the 2023 general election when control of the presidency and Congress is on the table.