Sáenz Peña Law

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Sáenz Peña Law

Sáenz Peña Law, measure initiated by Argentine President Roque Sáenz Peña, also known as the Law of 1912, which provided for the secret ballot and minority party representation in Congress. It also made voting compulsory for all native and naturalized Argentine men over the age of 18. The electoral roll was to be based on the military's conscription lists. The military was also given policing duties during electoral periods to ensure a peaceful and orderly process. The law, which altered the political process, was passed after a protracted congressional debate stemming from Conservative opposition to it.

The minority representation was to be established through the incomplete list, a process by which it was possible to give one-third of the seats available in each electoral district to the party with the second-highest number of votes.

This law radically changed Argentine politics. For example, voter turnout in the elections increased to between 70 and 80 percent of eligible voters, while before its passage, about a third of eligible voters turned out. As a result of the law, the number of eligible voters increased to 1 million in 1912. Also as a result of these changes, the Unión Cívica Radical, part of the opposition since the late nineteenth century, won the presidential election of 1916, and its leader, Hipólito Irigoyen, became the first president who did not come from the traditional ruling class. The Radicals remained in control until they were overthrown by a military coup in 1930.

See alsoSáenz Peña, Roque .


Miguel Angel Cárcano, Sáenz Peña: La revolución por los comicios, 2d ed. (1977).

Honorio Alberto Diaz, Ley Sáenz Peña: Pro y contra (1983).

David Rock, Argentina, 1516–1982 (1985).

Additional Bibliography

Giacobone, Carlos Alberto. Sáenz Peña "salió la nueva ley!": Elecciones en la ciudad de Buenos Aires, 1912. Buenos Aires: Instituto de Investigaciones Históricas Cruz del Sur, 2003.

López, Mario Justo. De la república oligárquica a la república democrática: Estudio sobre la reforma política de Roque Sáenz Peña. Buenos Aires: Lumiere, 2005.

                                     Juan Manuel PÉrez

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