MONTEVIDEO – The top two contenders in Sunday’s first round of Uruguay’s presidential election will face off against each other in a runoff to determine whether the country retains its center-left coalition government for another five-years or moves to the right.
Daniel Martinez, the nominee of the progressive Broad Front (FA), won 39.1 percent of the vote, while his rival from the National Party (PN), Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou, earned 28.6 percent, according to preliminary results with 98.3 percent of precincts reporting.
After the provisional tally came in, Martinez thanked voters for “again deciding that Uruguay’s most important force is called the Broad Front,” adding that “the path to dialogue has started.”
The opposition candidate, on the other hand, said results were a “clear sign” that an “alternation” in power was brewing.
“Today’s message is of a pluralistic alternation, not a single-party alternation,” Lacalle said.
Martinez and Lacalle are set to vie for the highest office in the South American nation on Nov. 24, as neither candidate obtained more than 50 percent of the vote needed to avoid a second round.
The presidential candidate for the center-right Colorado Party (PC), Ernesto Talvi, got about 12.3 percent of the vote, while the nominee representing the far-right Open Cabildo party, Guido Manini Rios, garnered 10.9 percent.
Talvi said Sunday night that his party would back Lacalle in the runoff and asked his supporters to vote for the PN candidate to oust the FA, which has been in power for the past 15 years under Presidents Tabare Vazquez (2005-10 and 2010-present) and Jose Mujica (2010-15). Mujica returned to the senate after having renounced to his post in 2018.
“Uruguay needs change and for that to happen, we call on our voters to back Doctor Lacalle Pou to lead the coalition with which we will transform the country,” Talvi said. “The Colorado Party will play a decisive role in the future coalition and we are available to form an alliance to give a future back to Uruguayans.”
Manini, meanwhile, also explicitly endorsed Lacalle for the runoff.
The far-right leader, who served as commander-in-chief of the National Army between 2015 and his dismissal in 2019, has openly expressed his admiration for Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro.
He was fired from the post after criticizing a court ruling on human rights violations committed during the so-called civic-military dictatorship of the junta – known as the National Security Council, or COSENA – that ruled the country with an iron fist between 1973-85.
The Open Cabildo, which was founded by Manini in April with a strong emphasis on social conservatism and public security, exceeded its best expectations with this result. It obtained a projected bounty of three senate seats – displacing long-standing parties such as the Independent Party from the upper chamber – and 11 deputies in the lower house.
During Sunday’s “super-election” that saw the first round of the presidential race held at the same time as the parliamentary election, Uruguayans also voted on a ballot measure to determine whether to approve a constitutional reform titled “Living Without Fear.”
The proposed amendment, introduced by PN Senator Jorge Larrañaga, would have given the South American country’s armed forces a greater role in public safety matters and toughened penalties for certain crimes.
Preliminary results showed that a majority of the electorate rejected the measure, which got 46.7 percent of votes in favor.