Uruguayan runoff election results too close to call

The difference of votes between the left-wing candidate Daniel Martínez and the right-wing candidate Luis Lacalle Pou is just over 1%

November 25, 2019 by Peoples Dispatch
The difference of votes between the left-wing candidate Daniel Martínez and the right-wing candidate Luis Lacalle Pou is just over 1%.

The second round of presidential elections in Uruguay was held on November 24. The preliminary results of the runoff between Daniel Martínez of the ruling left-wing government Frente Amplio (Broad Front) and Luis Lacalle Pou of the right-wing National Party, were so close that the Electoral Court announced that a clear winner couldn’t be declared until all votes were counted.

With 99.4% of the votes counted, the right-wing candidate Lacalle Pou, had a lead over the left-wing candidate Martínez with a slim margin of 1.26%. Lacalle Pou secured 48.74% of the votes, while Martínez obtained 47.48% of the votes.

However, the difference of votes between the two candidates is around 30,000 and is less than the number of “observed votes”, which is more than 34,500.

In Uruguay’s electoral system, when a voter can’t cast their vote at the assigned electoral table due to a justified impediment, they can do so at some other table under the condition of an “observed vote”. The counting of these votes is carried out later, thus the process to incorporate their ballot into the overall election usually takes longer and is not reflected in the preliminary results.

José Arocena, president of the Electoral Court, announced that the official results would be known by November 28 or 29, after reviewing all the “observed votes”.

Lacalle Poul said that he was convinced that he won the second round, while, Martínez called on the population to wait for the official results.

“They tried to bury us, but what they didn’t know is that we are seeds,” Martinez told his supporters gathered outside the party office in Montevideo. He added that “We are facing an unprecedented situation in Uruguay. We still have to wait to know the final result.”

The winner of the elections will start his five-year term on March 1, 2020.

Over 2.7 million Uruguayans were eligible to elect the country’s new president, vice president, 30 senators and 90 members of parliament for the period of 2020-2025. Around 90% of the population exercised their right to vote as it is obligatory in the country.

In the first electoral round, held on October 27, Martínez obtained a 10% lead over Lacalle Pou. However, the right-wing candidate formed an alliance, to win in the second round, with Ernesto Talvi of the center-right Colorado Party; Guido Manini of a new right-wing party Cabildo Abierto; Edgardo Novick of the right-wing party Partido de la Gente; and Pablo Mieres of the Independent party.

After the formation of “Multicolor”, the coalition of the aforementioned right-wing parties to support Lacalle Pou, several major pollsters in the country indicated the nationalist candidate would comfortably win the runoff.

If confirmed, the result would mean an end to the rule of the left-wing Broad Front coalition after 15 years in power, during which, Uruguay has overseen a period of economic stability and growth.

The progressive government of the Broad Front has spent considerably on a number of social programs in education, healthcare and housing sectors. Since 2004, when it first took over the presidency, the rates of poverty and extreme poverty decreased significantly. In addition, salaries, pensions and retirement benefits grew more than inflation in the country. The government consolidated a series of labor rights as well as social rights including same-sex marriage, legalization of abortion and the expansion of transgender people’s rights.