Uruguay's left readies for victory in October elections

Opinion polls predict a stunning victory of leftist candidate Tabare Vazquez in the first round of the presidential election

According to four opinion polls released this week, Uruguayan leftist candidate Tabare Vazquez would obtain more than the 50% of the votes required to win the presidential race in the first round scheduled for October 31. If votes confirm researches, Mr. Vazquez, a former mayor of Montevideo, country's capital, would then become the first constitutional president of Uruguay who does not belong to the two traditional parties that ruled this South American nation all over its history.

An opinion poll from Doxa consulting group says Vazquez, a physician who leads a center-left coalition formed by unions, communists and former guerrilla leaders, would obtain 54% of the votes. Its colleagues from Ipsos-Mora y Araujo, Radar and Factum also predicted Vazquez would win in the first round, while only 30% of the respondents said they will vote for Senator Jorge Larranaga (National Party) and the 10% opted for Guillermo Stirling, candidate of the ruling conservative coalition.

Observers believe it is essential for Vazquez to win in the first round, as a possible alliance of his opponents in the runoff could frustrate his chances as did in 1999 elections. At that time, Mr. Vazquez obtained less than the 50% of the votes required by the Constitution to be proclaimed president in the first round, and the traditional parties joined to support current leader Jorge Batlle to frustrate leftist hopes.

However, in the current scenario of unemployment and unprecedented levels of poverty in Uruguay, analysts believe that a leftist victory is just around the corner. Their concerns come mainly on whether Vazquez, once elected president, would be able to deal with country’s ultra-conservative institutions as the military and the powerful landowners.

Argentina and Brazil see with sympathy an eventual success of leftist Uruguayans. Presidents Kirchner and Lula Da Silva made known in several occasions that they go for Vazquez in October's vote. This raised concerns in Montevideo and led to a strong declaration of its Foreign Ministry rejecting foreign influences in internal issues.

Lula Da Silva's personal adviser on foreign affairs, Marco Aurelio Garcia, attended last week to a Frente Amplio meeting in Montevideo where he said he will be “very happy” with an eventual victory of Vazquez. Buenos Aires Mayor, Anibal Ibarra, introduced Tabare Vazquez as his “personal friend and future President of Uruguay”.

Observers believe an eventual victory of Vazquez would strengthen Mercosur trade block, as current Uruguayan leadership has a more pro-US approach in foreign issues.

Photo: Tabare Vazquez

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Author`s name Olga Savka