A Leftist Loss in Uruguay’s Presidential Race Wasn’t Exactly a Conservative Triumph

A Leftist Loss in Uruguay’s Presidential Race Wasn’t Exactly a Conservative Triumph
Uruguayan President-elect Luis Lacalle Pou arrives at the country’s presidential palace for a meeting with outgoing President Tabare Vazquez in Montevideo, Uruguay, Dec. 2, 2019 (AP photo by Matilde Campodonico).

Ending 15 years of governing by the leftist Broad Front coalition, Luis Lacalle Pou of the center-right National Party was declared the winner on Nov. 30 of Uruguay’s closely contested presidential runoff. The results of the second-round vote a week earlier, on Nov. 24, came down to just 28,666 votes out of 2.43 million cast, according to the Electoral Court. With turnout at 90 percent, Lacalle Pou, a lawyer, veteran congressman and son of a former president, edged the Broad Front’s candidate, Daniel Martinez, a former mayor of Montevideo, 48.7 to 47.5 percent.

During the Broad Front’s decade and a half in power, it pursued pragmatic economic policies and a series of socially liberal reforms, as poverty and inequality fell. Uruguay’s government is now back in the hands of the country’s two oldest political parties, the conservative National Party and Colorado Party—each founded in 1836—along with a newly formed right-wing movement called the Cabildo Abierto, or the Open Forum. After being knocked out in the first round on Oct. 27, the Colorado Party’s presidential candidate, Ernesto Talvi, and Cabildo Abierto’s candidate, Guido Manini Rios, a retired general, threw their weight behind Lacalle Pou to form a “multicolor” conservative coalition, papering over a range of disagreements and historical rivalries.

In the final days before the runoff, some polls had projected a 9 percent lead for the conservative opposition, so the ultimately narrow gap between Martinez and Lacalle Pou seemed to reflect several factors around the election. A video message issued by Manini Rios to the country’s soldiers on Nov. 14, accusing the Broad Front of having “insulted” the armed forces, may have spooked some Uruguayans. Expatriate voters who tend to favor the Broad Front, many of whom made the short ferry trip from neighboring Argentina to cast their ballots, probably added to the governing coalition’s total. And energetic campaigning across the country since the first round, especially by popular former President Jose “Pepe” Mujica and his party, the Movement of Popular Participation, appears to have rallied the flagging faithful of the Broad Front, which picked up an additional 1 million votes in the second round. The Broad Front will hold 42 seats in the Chamber of Deputies and 13 in the Senate, compared to 54 and 17, respectively, by Lacalle Pou’s disparate coalition.

Keep reading for free!

Get instant access to the rest of this article by submitting your email address below. You'll also get access to three articles of your choice each month and our free newsletter:

Or, Subscribe now to get full access.

Already a subscriber? Log in here .

What you’ll get with an All-Access subscription to World Politics Review:

A WPR subscription is like no other resource — it’s like having a personal curator and expert analyst of global affairs news. Subscribe now, and you’ll get:

  • Immediate and instant access to the full searchable library of tens of thousands of articles.
  • Daily articles with original analysis, written by leading topic experts, delivered to you every weekday.
  • Regular in-depth articles with deep dives into important issues and countries.
  • The Daily Review email, with our take on the day’s most important news, the latest WPR analysis, what’s on our radar, and more.
  • The Weekly Review email, with quick summaries of the week’s most important coverage, and what’s to come.
  • Completely ad-free reading.

And all of this is available to you when you subscribe today.