Uruguay's ruling party faces tight presidential race

Tabare Vazquez is projected to win but a runoff looms against conservative Lacalle Pou

Uruguay's ruling party faces tight presidential race

World Bulletin/News Desk

Uruguay’s Broad Front party faces a tight race against a conservative opposition in Sunday’s presidential election, even after 10 years of economic stability and progressive social reforms.

The ruling leftist party is trying to hold onto power in an election that likely will go to a second round that may prove harder to win, according to the latest opinion polls.

Broad Front’s candidate Tabare Vazquez, who was president from 2005 to 2010, likely will win about 44 percent of the votes in the first round, according to a poll by Factum, a political consultancy and pollster in Montevideo. Group Radar, another pollster, shows Vazquez getting 45.6 percent of the votes.

That’s less than the 50.1 percent needed for Vazquez, 74, to avoid a runoff, a fate he averted in the 2004 election but not his successor and current president, Jose Mujica, in 2009. Mujica is excluded from running due to term limits.

If the polls prove true, Vazquez will run against Luis Lacalle Pou of the center-right National Party in the second round Nov. 30, leaving out of the race Pedro Bordaberry of the Colorado Party.

The 41-year-old Pou is trailing with 32 percent of the votes and Bordaberry, 54, has 15 percent, according to both polls.

Vazquez, while more of a moderate as compared to President Mujica, is expected to continue with the same policies that have brought Uruguay world recognition for its steady economy and attractive investment conditions.

The country, the second smallest in South America, with a population of 3.3 million, quickly emerged from an economic crisis in 2002 stemming largely from being heavily dependent on Argentina for everything from bank deposits to tourism dollars and trade flows.

Argentina’s economic collapse and $100 billion default in 2001 and 2002 led Uruguay’s leaders to diversify the country’s economy and trade, helping to reduce its exposure to its southern neighbor, which continues to struggle economically.

Indeed, while the International Monetary Fund expects Argentina’s economy to shrink 1.7 percent this year and by 1.5 percent in 2015, Uruguay’s economy is expected to grow by 2.8 percent annually in 2014 and 2015.

While that is slower than the growth of between 3.7 percent and 7.3 percent during the period of 2011 and 2013, the IMF said in October that “Uruguay has proven quite resilient to the slowdown in Argentina and Brazil – its two key trading partners – thus far.”

The growth stems largely from the centrist economic convictions of most political parties. While Mujica, 79, is a former leftist guerrilla, he maintained the economic orthodoxy of Vazquez as a way to underpin, and finance, his progressive social agenda for improving education, infrastructure and public services.

The agenda also has included the legalization of marijuana as a way to fight the drug war, as well as the legalization of abortion and gay marriage. And most recently it has involved the launch of a $3 million resettlement program for Syrian refugees fleeing civil war.

Vazquez’s leading contender, congressman Lacalle Pou, is trying to bring the presidency back to his party – and his family. His father, Luis Lacalle, was president from 1990 to 1995.

If the vote goes to a second round, Pou could get the support of the Colorado Party through Bordaberry - the son of a former president turned dictator – to bolster his chances.

Regardless of the outcome, the election likely will cost Broad Front its control of Congress, giving Pou’s National Party and the Colorados more influence on policies to make it harder for the ruling party to get laws passed.

Pou has said if he becomes president he would repeal the marijuana law, which allows the state to oversee the legal production and sales of the drug, and will also do more to calm inflation, now at about 9 percent annual, and to reduce the fiscal deficit.


Güncelleme Tarihi: 25 Ekim 2014, 11:41