Fifteen years in power and economic stagnation, coupled with a rise in unemployment and fall in consumption and private investment, have taken their toll on the left-wing Frente Amplio (Broad Front) coalition. It now faces a complex position if it seeks to stay in power after the second round, scheduled for Nov. 24.
The Broad Front had the most votes of any political party in the country (39 % percent), but it gave up its majority position in the Senate and the House of Representatives, which it held since 2005. On the other hand, National Party candidate Luis Lacalle Pou won 29 percent of the vote, thus becoming the opposition leader.
In the final stages of the campaign, the left-wing party showed significant growth, and its leaders were confident they would retain the congressional majority. They even considered the possibility of winning in the first round with the required absolute majority of votes.
As soon as the first figures were revealed, the worried faces at the Broad Front headquarters reflected that their first-round winner had actually lost, paradoxical as it may sound. This is because the leftist coalition had been strongly confrontational, gathering all the political forces that insisted on a need for change. And, on Sunday, Oct. 27, over half the citizenry showed they really do want change.
Without a congressional majority and sitting far from all the other political parties, how can the Broad Front win the vote of citizens who voted for other parties this past Sunday and ultimately stay in power?
It does not seem to be an easy task. According to some analysts, it is unrealistic to even think it may be possible. The Broad Front candidate is starting the race to the second round at a disadvantage, since the main opposition candidates quickly expressed their support for Lacalle Pou after losing on Sunday night.
“On Sunday, Oct. 27, over half the citizenry showed they really do want change”
Once the results were announced, the historic Colorado Party, led by liberal economist Ernesto Talvi, announced it will form part of a coalition for change, led by Lacalle Pou. Talvi made it clear that he will tour the country to campaign for the opposition leader.
Many doubted whether Talvi would be so straightforward on the same night of the election. But the new party leader followed in the footsteps of former President and Colorado Party leader Julio Maria Sanguinetti, who will return to the Senate in 2020, making a quick statement to inform citizens that Uruguay’s two old foundational parties would vote together again at the second round.
However, support from this party is not enough to ensure Lacalle Pou could create an opposition coalition to obtain a congressional majority and pass key bills. That would require incorporating the surprising Cabildo Abierto (Town Meeting), a right-wing party founded just six months ago by former Army Commander in Chief Guido Manini Rios, a military officer who was promoted to that position by the Broad Front itself.
Rios’ party became the seat filler this election. Town Meeting obtained a little over 10 percent of the national vote, and on Sunday night, its leader also announced they would add their strength to Lacalle Pou to ensure an opposition victory and bring about the end of the Broad Front administrations. With this added support, the new coalition would already win the majority in both houses of Congress. As a result, they appear to be a stronger alternative in the eyes of the citizens, one that would be able to govern the country.