A former president of Uruguay is to be returned to the job after claiming victory in an election, taking more than 50 percent of the vote and extending the left's decade-long hold on power, exit polls say.

Tabare Vazquez won Sunday's runoff vote, winning between 53 and 53.9 percent of the vote, three different exit polls said, succeeding his Broad Front (FA) party colleague Jose Mujica, known as "the world's poorest president."

If confirmed, the result consolidates the FA's hold on power and returns Vazquez to the helm, almost ten years since he first swept them to power.

Mujica was barred by the constitution from running in Sunday's election.

Al Jazeera's Daniel Schweimler, reporting from Montevideo, said the vote signalled a desire to have more of the same, but also the beginning of a new era.

Vazquez beat his center-right opponent, 41-year-old politician Luis Lacalle Pou, who garnered between 40.6 and 42 percent of the vote.

In October, Vazquez fell just short of an outright victory in the first round of voting, getting 48 percent support against 31 percent for Pou.

Both candidates had pushed to tackle rising crime, making it a key issue of their election campaigns, despite Uruguay being one of the safest countries in South America, our correspondent said.

Vazquez also promised to leave in place the plan to have the government regulate the cultivation and sale of marijuana on a nationwide scale, unless it produces negative results.

The 74-year-old cancer doctor who previously served as president from 2005 to 2010, grew up in a working class neighborhood of Montevideo and continued seeing patients one day a week during his previous presidency.

In his first presidential campaign, Vazquez promised changes that would "shake the roots of the trees." But he governed as a relatively cautious moderate, avoiding the constitutional changes and polarisation that have shaken countries such as Venezuela.

Source: Al Jazeera and agencies