Centre-right National Party candidate wins Uruguay election

Luis Lacalle Pou set to become president, ending 15 years of left-leaning government.

Luis Lacalle
Luis Lacalle Pou of the centre-left National Party won Uruguay's presidential election following a recount [Santiago Mazzarovich/AP]

The presidential candidate for Uruguay‘s governing coalition has conceded defeat after a vote recount, ending 15-years of rule by the left-leaning government in the South American country. 

The announcement on Thursday means centre-right candidate Luis Lacalle Pou of the National Party will become Uruguay’s next president. 

Lacalle Pou, a 46-year-old lawyer and a former senator, defeated Daniel Martinez of the governing Broad Front coalition in the runoff election on Sunday. However, Martinez refused to concede when the election was deemed too close to call by the electoral court, with just 30,000 votes separating the candidates. 

The court ordered a recount on the grounds that the number of provisional or contested votes, about 35,000, exceeded the margin between the candidates.

While the final tally of votes in the recount was still under way, Martinez said the results released so far show he was defeated.

The count “isn’t changing and, therefore, we greet the elected president Luis Lacalle Pou”, Daniel Martinez wrote in a tweet.

“We will continue to defend democracy with more force than ever,” he said, adding he plans to meet President-elect Lacalle Pou, who is the son former president Luis Alberto Lacalle, on Friday.

In a tweet, the National Party announced their victory

“Now, it’s our turn, let’s celebrate everybody’s Uruguay!” it said.

Growing insecurity

The news set off a cacophony of celebration and horn-blowing downtown in the capital Montevideo by Lacalle Pou supporters, as the court was expected to declare the official result later on Thursday, ending Broad Front’s 15-year reign.

The coalition of leftist movements had broken a decades-long conservative stranglehold on the country of 3.5 million with an election victory in 2005.

President-elect Luis Lacalle Pou’s supporters celebrate in Montevideo after he announced his victory [Mariana Greif/Reuters]

The party had overseen a period of stability and growth in tiny Uruguay, with a series of progressive policies, including approving abortion and gay marriage and pioneering the legalisation of cannabis in 2013, drawing international attention. 

But Lacalle Pou tapped into voter concerns over the country’s high tax rates and fears of creeping insecurity, caused in part by global trade woes and bad crop weather that dented the important farming sector. 

Long considered a bastion of peace and stability in an often turbulent region, public safety has also shown signs of eroding in recent times, with a sharp rise in some violent crimes reported last year.

Source: News Agencies