Uruguay celebrates its strongest elections this Sunday since the democratic restoration

Supporters of the opposition candidate Luis Lacalle Pou in Uruguay – REUTERS / STRINGER.

Martinez would win the first round but Lacalle Pou would have more options in the second


Uruguay holds a presidential election this Sunday in which the official candidate, Daniel Martínez, would win this first round with ease but not enough to avoid a second round in which he would have Luis Lacalle Pou, who already seeks support of the other parties to end the 15 years of government of the Frente Amplio (FA).

Uruguay celebrates its strongest elections this Sunday since the democratic restoration
Uruguay celebrates its strongest elections this Sunday since the democratic restoration

Some 2.7 million Uruguayans will go to the polls this Sunday in a general election in which they will vote for the tandem of president and vice president and will renew the 99 seats of the House of Representatives and 30 of the Senate.

Martínez, who competes for the FA, will try to get another five years for the leftist coalition, which came to power in 2005 from the hand of Tabaré Vázquez, who was succeeded by José Mujica, who returned the witness in 2015. The latest polls they place first, with a fork of between 41 and 33 percent of the votes.

It is followed by Lacalle Pou, of the National Party (PN), in the center-right, which would scratch between 27 and 22 percent of the votes, finishing second. Behind are Ernesto Talvi, of the Colorado Party (PC), with between 16 and 10 percent, and General Guido Manini Ríos, of Cabilo Open, with between 12 and 10 percent.

These numbers predict a second round, since none exceeds the minimum threshold of 50 percent of the vote. Thus, Martínez and Lacalle Pou would be measured on November 24 in a ballot where the victory would be for the most voted. Here, the polls predict an electoral turnaround in favor of the opposition candidate.

Lacalle Pou has begun to probe other candidates to ensure his victory in the second round. He has proposed to sign a written pact with the general lines of a possible coalition government between the National Party, the Colorado Party and the Open Cabildo. Talvi has advanced that will give his support, although not a “blank check”, while Manini Ríos keeps the mystery.


Martínez carries on his shoulders the responsibility of keeping the FA in power with the wear and tear of fifteen years in which he has lost the support of traditional sectors of the Uruguayan left. That is reflected in the popularity of Vázquez, who in 2010 passed the command rod to Mujica with 62 percent popularity and now says goodbye with 28 percent.

This 62-year-old industrial engineer began his militancy in the Socialist Party with 16 years and was 'in crescendo' until he became one of the founders of the ANCAP union in the last military dictatorship (1973-1985). With the return of democracy, he abandoned the political struggle and took refuge in the private sector until Vázquez recovered him to the Ministry of Energy, from where he made the leap to the Senate and the Mayor's Office of Montevídeo.

It is precisely this last position, that of the mayor of the Uruguayan capital, that has given him enough prestige to beat the other candidates in the primaries that were held nationally in all political parties last June, despite that he is not in charge of any of the great families of the FA, unlike Vázquez and Mujica.

“He can't stop being an engineer,” former guerrilla tupamaro said about Martinez in a recent interview with BBC Mundo. “His specialty is not the dialectic, but the management and concrete commitment to the problems, that is very valuable,” he added.

'El Pelado', as he is popularly known for his baldness, will try to assert that moderate profile within the leftist coalition to capture votes from the center and even from the center-right, which will be key in a hypothetical ballot.


Lacalle Pou is the youngest presidential candidate, 46, but also one of the best known. It comes from a political saga that began with his great-grandfather, the historic leader Luis Alberto de Herrera, who brought the National Party to power, and continued with his father, former President Luis Alberto Lacalle (1990-1995), and his mother, former senator Julia Pou.

He already tried to conquer the Presidency of Uruguay in 2015, something that Vázquez deprived him of. Lacalle Pou confessed that it “killed” him. He spent months “shocked” until he resumed the leadership of the PN since Congress, where he has developed his political career, first as a deputy and then as a senator. His promise of change against the FA is his main asset.

Talvi is the third option. This economist from the University of Chicago and 62 years whose experience comes almost entirely from the private sector gave the surprise in the June primary by defeating President Julio Sanguinetti (1985-1990 and 1995-2000) twice and Pedro Bordaberry, son of the dictator Juan María Bordaberry (1973-1976). “Left or right? I am a liberal progressive,” he says.

The 'colorado' candidate could agree on the left, with Martínez, or on the right, with Lacalle Pou, so in the face of a ballot he will be the most coveted partner, although initially he has opted to promote change. “We are going to be working for the urgent changes that the country needs,” he said on Twitter.

The real novelty of these elections is Manini Ríos. Cabildo Open has burst into the fourth force breaking with the traditional tripartism in Uruguay. He created the ultra-right formation in March, a month after he was dismissed as commander in chief of the Army for criticizing sentences against the military for the crimes of the dictatorship. They are convicted on the basis of “inadmissible conjectures or convictions, without reliable, forged or invented evidence,” he said.

The general, 60, has been nicknamed the 'Uruguayan Bolsonaro' for his similarities with the Brazilian president, although it is unlikely that he will reap the same results at the polls. Manini Ríos, which will attract right-wing and ultra-right voters who were previously framed in other acronyms, could be essential for Lacalle Pou on November 24.


Apart from the presidential elections, which are the main course, this October 27, Uruguayans will also choose a new Congress. Currently, the FA has a comfortable majority of 50 seats in the House of Representatives and 15 in the Senate. However, the polls predict a drastic change in the configuration of the Legislative. The FA would remain as the first force but without a majority, so here it would also have to look for allies in other parties.

In addition, Uruguayans vote in a referendum on a constitutional reform on public safety. The 'Live without Fear' plan, promoted by the 'national' senator Jorge Larrañaga, proposes to create a National Guard to patrol the streets, recover night records and effective enforcement of sentences and a life sentence for the most serious crimes.

According to the latest polls, 'Living without Fear' would be approved in the framework of the growing concern in Uruguay about crime, which last year shot up 46 percent, with 414 homicides compared to 283 in 2017. However, it has He has received numerous criticisms from human rights defenders. Symptom of the controversial plan is that Lacalle Pou does not support it although it is a proposal of his own party.

With all this, Uruguay would enter the path already explored by other Latin American countries where a new face or directly an 'outsider' has been sought to break the 'status quo' in the context of a great disaffection by economic turbulence and political corruption. Although, as analyst Arturo Porzecanski points out in AS / COA, “the Uruguayan will not be exactly a wild race”, at least in this first round.

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