MONTEVIDEO – Uruguay entered the final phase of the vote count for last weekend’s presidential election on Tuesday, with opposition National Party (PN) candidate Luis Lacalle Pou holding an edge over his rival, Daniel Martinez of the governing Broad Front (FA).
In a calm and measured atmosphere, the orange ballot boxes containing all the votes cast in Montevideo last Sunday, were delivered to the headquarters of the Electoral Court.
Delegates from the center-right PN and the leftist FA awaited the ballots at each of the tables where the vote count of nullified ballots or those cast outside the voters’ home districts will be conducted by hand.
Just as in Montevideo, each of the country’s 18 provinces also began its own vote count, and forecasts are that it will be completed as early as Friday, but certainly by sometime over next weekend.
Nationwide, a total of 35,229 ballots were cast by people voting outside their home precincts for allowed reasons – such as members of the military stationed elsewhere in the country, the staff members working at election precincts or certain physically disabled people – and 53,619 people cast preliminarily voided ballots.
The vice president of the Electoral Court, Wilfredo Penco, explained the upcoming procedure to reporters, saying that once the votes cast outside home precincts are tallied and the voided ballots are verified to be sure that they are truly null, the totals will be added to Sunday’s results.
The election on the weekend was the closest in recent years and, after virtually 100 percent of the ballots were counted, just 28,666 votes separated Lacalle Pou and Martinez.
Lacalle Pou and his vice presidential running mate Beatriz Argimon received 1,168,019 votes to 1,139,353 for Martinez and Graciela Villar.
The procedure to count the remaining ballots began amid a very serious atmosphere, with all Electoral Court officials and party delegates working intently and carefully to be sure that every valid vote is counted.
Because the total number of as yet uncounted votes exceeds the vote differential between the two candidates, it could not be determined initially which person actually won the election. Hence the need to count the remaining ballots before a winner can be officially announced.
However, the delegates of both parties have placed their “full trust” in the Electoral Court, according to what FA delegate Cristina Mier told EFE.
“Obviously, the result will be what it will be. Clearly, the chances are on the side of the National Party ticket, but until the last vote is counted, one cannot know,” she said.
Hanging in the balance is whether or not the FA – which has governed the country since 2005 – will win a fourth presidential term or whether the country will swing to the right.
Lacalle Pou, whose father Luis Alberto Lacalle, governed Uruguay 30 years ago, heads a “multicolor” coalition in which almost all opposition parties in parliament are represented, in particular the center-right Colorado Party and the rightist Cabildo Abierto, which is linked to the military.