Tabare Vazquez won back his old job as president of Uruguay in a runoff election on Sunday, extending the decade-long rule of a leftist coalition and allowing it to roll out a groundbreaking law that legalizes the production and sale of marijuana. Vazquez won comfortably with 52.8 percent support while his center-right challenger, Luis Lacalle Pou, trailed on 40.5 percent, official results showed late on Sunday night. Lacalle Pou earlier conceded defeat after quick counts showed an easy victory for Vazquez, and thousands of ruling Broad Front supporters streamed through the rain-soaked streets of Montevideo, waving party banners in celebration.
Uruguay, a country whose name has often been synonymous with obscurity, will host its runoff presidential election on November 30, with incumbent President José Mujica vacating his seat to one of two candidates: Tabaré Vázquez or Luis Lacalle Pou. Voting in one of its closest elections since the establishment of its current regime, Uruguay is facing a fork in the road: the Broad Front Party’s Vázquez and the continuation of a state-guided economy, or the National Party’s Lacalle Pou and the adoption of a more conservative, smaller government that will further open the country up to international free trade. Preliminary polling data has the two rivals locked in a dead heat for the runoff election. Lacalle Pou is expected to gain the support of the right-wing Colorado Party, which had backed Pedro Bordaberry in the first round of presidential voting. To further complicate political predictions, this election includes approximately 250,000 new, highly unpredictable young voters who do not depend on print media or the radio, the dominant news mediums in Uruguay, instead relying on the Internet as their main source of news. As a result, gauging their political preferences is proving difficult in the weeks leading up to the runoff.
In the weeks preceding Uruguay’s October 26th presidential elections, the capital of Montevideo was blanketed in political advertisements. Billboards for Tabaré Vázquez (pictured), who was president from 2004 to 2009 and belongs to the current ruling party, the Broad Front, read: “Uruguay will not be stopped.” For a while, however, it looked like Mr Vázquez might be. Pollsters predicted he would not collect the 50% of votes needed to avoid a run-off, where they thought Luis Lacalle Pou, a flowing-haired, centre-right 41-year-old lawyer and son of a former Uruguayan president, might scrape a victory. In Uruguay “it is very rare for governments to increase their support base while in power,” says Adolfo Garcé, a political scientist at the University of Social Sciences in Montevideo. Put more simply, “what comes up must come down,” says Luis Eduardo Gonzalez of Cifra, a polling group.
Leftist former president Tabare Vazquez and his center-right rival Luis Lacalle Pou will head into a November 30 runoff after a presidential vote failed to deliver an outright winner, results showed Monday. President Jose Mujica will be succeeded either by his Broad Front ally Vazquez, who earned 45.5 percent of the vote, or the National Party’s Lacalle Pou, who garnered 32 percent, election officials said Monday, having completed a manual count of 78 percent of ballot boxes. Some Vazquez supporters had hoped he could squeeze out an absolute majority, but he fell short. Compounding their disappointment, his party was also seen as potentially losing its control over the legislature, projections showed. After preliminary results were announced, thousands of Broad Front supporters nonetheless filled July 18 Avenue, the main street in downtown Montevideo, honking horns and waving flags.
All this despite the fact that president Jose Mujica, who can’t be re-elected but enjoys strong popularity both at home and overseas, has been openly campaigning for the candidates of the ruling coalition. The latest polls indicate that the incumbent ticket of former president Tabare Vazquez (74) and Raul Sendic (54) are leading in the range of 40% to 42% of vote intention, but a formidable and unexpected young contender has emerged, Luis Lacalle Pou, 41, and his conservative National party. Legislator and lawyer Lacalle Pou has a vote intention above 32% and has made the Sunday event, unthinkable only six months ago, in the most competitive election since democracy returned to Uruguay in 1985. ”Uruguay’s financial crisis of 2002 left Uruguay divided in a centre left half with a floor of 40% of the electorate and another 40% centre right.
Ahead of this Sunday’s General Election, the latest public opinion polls in Uruguay indicate that the election race is likely to go to a runoff at the end of November. As millions of Uruguayan prepare to hit the polls, Broad Front leader and former president Tabare Vasquez has a strong lead, but not enough to reach the 50 percent mark to win in the first round. According to pollster Factum, the Broad Front coalition will garner 44 percent of ballots this October 26, with the National Party candidate Luis Lacalle taking 32 percent. The right-wing Colorado party is currently polling at 15 percent.
For years, Daniela Leal saw only one good choice at the ballot box: She voted for the Frente Amplio, the Broad Front, the coalition of Uruguayan leftist parties that prioritized the well-being of families like hers. Ms. Leal, 43, her four children and one grandchild live in a cement-block house with a corrugated tin roof in a slum on the edge of the capital. Sewage runs out front in the cracks in the pavement she tries to sweep clean. The Broad Front governments of the past decade boosted minimum wages and pensions, and focused on better housing and health care – they cared about people like her, she said. But with a national election in Uruguay just around the corner, Ms. Leal is suddenly undecided. The Frente is the party of the poor, but she worries they have become just like all the other politicians. And she wonders if it’s time to try something new. The indecision of voters such as Ms. Leal has made the Oct. 26 election uncharacteristically difficult to predict. Polls suggest the Broad Front may hold on to parliament but will not win another majority. And the race for president is too close to call.
One of Uruguay’s most prominent pollsters Cifra is reluctant to guess who will win next week’s presidential elections. Cifra said that former president Tabaré Vázquez, running for a second time, is more vulnerable than when current President José Mujica was campaigning for the top seat in 2009. Vázquez is backed by Mujica to be his succesor. Their Broad Front leads all the polls but the election is most likely to go to a runoff on November 30 to determine whether or not it will win a third succesive term in power. Vázquez and his running partner Raúl Sendic have around 40 percent of voting intentions according to the country’s four main pollsters: Cifra, Equipos, Factum and Radar. It is also in doubt whether Broad Front will maintain its majority in Congress if it were to win. Vázquez (2005-2010) and then Mujica were both able to pass laws with relative ease due to their government’s majority. This may not be the case if Vázquez is elected for a second time.