MONTEVIDEO – Broad Front candidate and former President Tabare Vazquez on Sunday won the Uruguayan presidential runoff with between 53.5 and 53.9 percent of the vote, according to initial exit polls, defeating conservative rival Luis Lacalle Pou, who garnered between 40.6 and 41.4 percent of the vote and publicly admitted defeat.
Vazquez, who was Uruguay’s first leftist president from 2005-2010, received 47.8 percent of the votes in the first electoral round on Oct. 26.
With these runoff results, this will be the first time since democracy was restored in Uruguay in 1985, that one party has remained in power for three consecutive presidential terms.
Equipos Mori, in its exit polling, found that Vazquez had obtained 53.5 percent of the votes, while Lacalle, with the National Party, received 41.4 percent, with blank and null votes amounting to 5.1 percent.
The Factum polling firm, meanwhile, said that the Broad Front ticket garnered 53.9 percent of the vote, to the conservatives’ 40.6 percent, with 6 percent of the ballots cast being blank or null.
And the Cifra consulting firm gave Vazquez 53.5 percent of the votes to Lacalle Pou’s 41 percent, with 5.5 percent of the ballots being blank or null.
Meanwhile, Lacalle Pou acknowledged defeat in a speech and congratulated Vasquez on his victory, saying “A few minutes ago I called Vazquez to acknowledge his legitimate victory and wish him the best of success for his term.
Some 2.6 million people were eligible to cast ballots for the successor to President Jose Mujica, who is prohibited by the constitution from running for re-election.
The polls opened at 8 a.m. across Uruguay, where the weather service issued a bulletin warning that strong winds, powerful storms and torrential rains could hit the country during the day.
The 74-year-old socialist Vazquez, an oncologist by training, was handily leading in the polls heading into election day.
“We are going to call for a great national meeting to analyze (with the other political parties) economic, political and social issues so we can all design the Uruguay of the future,” Vazquez said in an improvised press conference before voting.
Lacalle Pou, for his part, voted at the Liceo Guadalupe and told the press that he would await the election results.
“I am relaxed ... and calm because of the good campaign we had,” Lacalle Pou, who was soaked when he arrived at the polling place, said.
The polls showed Vazquez drawing the support of between 52 percent and 53 percent of voters in the run-off.
Lacalle Pou, an attorney who served as speaker of the Chamber of Deputies, was getting between 35 percent and 38 percent support in the polls.
Mujica told Television Nacional after voting that he planned to stay involved in national affairs because he could not be “a retiree in some corner pondering his memories.”
The president, who has governed this South American country since 2010, will hand over power in March 2015.
The national elections commission expects to release the first official results around 11:00 p.m.