MONTEVIDEO – Only 28,666 votes separated center-right National Party candidate Luis Lacalle Pou from center-left Broad Front candidate Daniel Martinez, at the end of the electoral count for the second round of the presidential elections of Uruguay on Sunday, but it will take days for the winner to be announced.
With all of the votes counted, the team made up of Lacalle Pou and his running mate Beatriz Argimon obtained 1,168,019 votes, while the pairing of Martinez and Graciela Villar got 1,139,353.
As the observed votes – cast by people at a different electoral table than the one assigned to them, due to justified reasons – amounted to 35,229, the electoral court has not yet been able to declare a winner.
The court will have a rest day on Monday and will resume the task of counting votes at 9 am the following day to determine the outcome of the observed votes and the name of the president-elect for the 2020-2025 period will not be announced until Thursday or Friday.
So after nine months of campaigning, primary elections in June, a first round of the presidential election in October and the second on Sunday, Uruguay still does not know who will succeed its current head of state, Tabare Vazquez.
It is the fourth election in the country’s electoral history since the run-off system was introduced in the 1996 reform.
Although the polls leading up to this day gave a clear victory to the nationalist challenger, the surprising figures achieved by the ruling candidate has given rise to uncertainty regarding the result and caution by the political leaders, who preferred to remain silent in the face of the neck-to-neck initial projections.
Never has there been such a narrow margin in the second round. The tightest margin until now was in 1999, when Jorge Batlle of the Colorado Party defeated Broad Front by 8 points.
While everything indicates that Lacalle Pou will be the ultimate victor, Martinez’s surprising comeback has been the highlight of election day as all the polls prior to the run-off had predicted a difference of between 6-8 points for the nationalist.
“What this election leaves us... is that the support of whoever is elected president in either of the two options (rounds) is going to reach 50 percent, which indicates that we have the historical task of seeking understanding and alliances that allows us, in one country alone, in one Uruguay, to govern for the people,” a smiling Martinez declared.
In an uncertain scenario, given the narrow margin of the final count, Martinez pointed out to the need for agreements and dialog among all the political parties.
The appearance of a video by former army commander-in-chief Guido Manini Rios during the election silence, in which he asked members of the armed forces to vote against the Broad Front, is pointed to by many analysts as one of the triggers for the neck-and-neck figures between the two candidates.
Rios was dismissed in early 2019 after which he joined the newly-founded Open Cabildo to enter politics and is part of the opposition alliance that supports Lacalle Pou.
Rios appeared alongside Lacalle Pou on stage along with the rest of his allies, Ernesto Talvi (Colorado Party), Pablo Mieres (Independent Party) and Edgardo Novick (Party of the People) defending the unity of the coalition.