MONTEVIDEO – Uruguay is holding its presidential run-off election on Sunday, with voters deciding who will govern this South American nation during a term running from 2020 to 2025.
The election pits Daniel Martinez, the candidate of the governing center-left Broad Front (FA) coalition, against Sen. Luis Lacalle Pou, the standard-bearer of the conservative National Party.
The 62-year-old Martinez is trying to help the FA win a fourth consecutive presidential election, while the 46-year-old Lacalle Pou, who was leading in the polls heading into election day, is trying to wrest the presidency from the leftist coalition.
Martinez, who served as industry, energy and mining minister from 2008 to 2009, was greeted by supporters when he went to cast his ballot at an elections precinct in Pocitos, an upscale Montevideo neighborhood.
“I’m totally relaxed, everything has been done. We just have to wait with respect, democratically and with good vibrations,” the former Montevideo mayor told reporters.
President Tabare Vazquez told reporters before heading out to vote that Uruguay’s democracy was strong, especially “looking at the region.”
“I consider it something for the country to be proud of that in a region rocked (by protests) we would be carrying out this election campaign and, eventually, a change of administration in peace, tranquility, with respect, with the tolerance that we are doing this, and that speaks well of all of Uruguay and of the government,” Vazquez said.
The 79-year-old Vazquez, who has the distinction of being Uruguay’s first leftist president, served as head of state from 2005 to 2010 and was returned by voters to the nation’s top office in 2015.
The president, who was recently diagnosed with lung cancer, said his administration was ready to work with the winner of Sunday’s run-off election on the transition.
Uruguay’s next president will take office on March 1, 2020, and Vazquez said “whoever wins can say when (the transition) begins.”
The national elections commission said some 2.7 million people were eligible to cast ballots in the run-off election.
Polling places opened at 8:00 am and will close at 7:30 pm, election officials said.
More than 90 percent of the ballots are expected to have been tallied around 10:00 pm, the national elections commission said.
Voting is mandatory in Uruguay and citizens must cast ballots within the national territory.
The Oct. 27 general elections were the most competitive in years in Uruguay, with no party winning an absolute majority in Congress, and voters will have a chance on Sunday to decide whether to give the left another presidential term or go in a different direction.
Lacalle Pou, the son of a former president, got the backing of nearly every party in Congress, with the exception of the Radical Intransigent Environmental Party (PERI), for his bid to form a wide-ranging coalition and bring change to Uruguay after 15 years of FA administrations.
Lacalle Pou was backed by the center-right Colorado Party (PC), Uruguay’s other traditional party and an organization that was founded 183 years ago, and the Cabildo Abierto party, which was founded earlier this year and is led by former army commander Gen. Guido Manini Rios.
The minority Independent Party and the People’s Party also threw their support behind Lacalle Pou in Sunday’s run-off election.