Montevideo’s rambla (coastal avenue) and public squares have been filled for weeks with passionate campaigners from all four of Uruguay’s political parties. After the October 26 election, one thing is clear — many of these political activists are going nowhere. The presidential election, however, is headed for a run-off.
As the polls predicted, the Frente Amplio’s Tabaré Vázquez, who was president from 2005-2010, will face the Nacional’s Luis Alberto Lacalle Poll, the son of a former president, in the next stage of the elections, slated for November 30.
Final tallies from Sunday’s first-round vote have Vázquez receiving 47.9 percent of votes, and his main opponent garnering 31 percent. Neither achieved the 50 percent plus one majority needed to win outright, as the remainder of votes were split between the other candidates. Pedro Bordaberry of the Colorados earned about 12.9 percent of the vote and the Independent Party candidate, Pablo Mieres, received just under 3 percent.
After results came in on Sunday night, Bordaberry threw his support behind Lacalle Pou’s candidacy and urged those who voted for him to shift their focus to electing Lacalle Pou. The Frente Amplio has held the presidency since 2005 and Bordaberry said it was time for a change in the country’s leadership.
The Frente Amplio has also enjoyed a majority in Parliament during these years, and will likely retain that edge after Sunday’s elections. Their majority in the lower house is assured, while the Senate will be decided after the final balloting. The Frente Amplio indicated that it will also seek to create a coalition with the Independent Party, which will have a senator this term. The Frente Amplio’s ability to retain an outright majority, though, will depend on whether Vázquez wins in November, and his vice president, Raúl Sendic, becomes the president of the Senate.
The Parliamentary direction determines debates on the nation’s five-year budget, as well as the implementation of the nation’s controversial marijuana law, which will be in doubt if Lacalle Pou wins, as he has vowed to try and repeal it.
The outright victory for Uruguay’s Left came in the rejection of a law to lower the age of criminal responsibility from 18 to 16. The “no a la baja” (no to lowering the age) campaign lagged in polls the entire year, but a strong effort from civil society groups inspired fervent campaigns across the country in the months leading up to the election. The nation rejected the proposal and the “no” campaigners celebrated in the streets and on social media, many hoisting Frente Amplio flags.
One of the biggest issues in the election centered on insecurity in the nation, and Bordaberry and Lacalle Pou both championed the law to lower the age, arguing that it would help solve the problem that voters indicated as their top concern.
Vázquez and most (but not all) of the Frente Amplio opposed it, arguing that youth accounted for only a tiny percentage of crimes. Their anti-crime proposals focused on rehabilitation efforts for youth and helping police improve job performance by providing better equipment, increasing the number of vehicles to allow them to travel to the interior of the country and offering higher wages.
While the Frente Amplio won this battle, the fight over the presidency will continue until the final decision on November 30. The rambla and public squares will not clear for mate drinkers to enjoy the improving weather in the country; instead, these public spaces will continue to be filled with passionate supporters ready for another month of ardent campaigning, with both the presidency and the final Senate seat at stake.