Polls open in Uruguay's presidential election runoff

Conservative Luis Lacalle Pou has led opinion polls against rival Daniel Martinez after striking key coalition deals.

    Polls open in Uruguay's presidential election runoff
    People stand in line to cast their votes in front of a polling station in Montevideo [Mariana Greif/Reuters]

    Voters in Uruguay are heading to the polls in a presidential election that appears likely to sweep the right-leaning opposition into power and end the centre-left's 15-year rule.

    In the lead-up to Sunday's vote, conservative opposition candidate Luis Lacalle Pou led the opinion polls against ruling party candidate Daniel Martinez after striking key coalition deals following a first-round vote in October.

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    Those alliances with mostly conservative parties might prove key -  Lacalle Pou came second in the October 27 poll with around 29 percent of the vote, behind Martinez's Broad Front with 39 percent.

    The polling stations will open at 8am (11:00 GMT) and close at 19:30 (22:30 GMT). Some 2.6 million voters are eligible to vote.

    The next president will take office in March for five years. 

    Progressive government 

    The Broad Front, a coalition of leftist movements, can point to a record of progressive government since it broke a decades-long conservative stranglehold in 2005.

    Uruguay stood out on the international stage by approving abortion and gay marriage, as well as pioneering the legalisation of cannabis in 2013.

    But Lacalle Pau has tapped in to voter concerns over the country's high tax rates, promising to look elsewhere to raise the $900m needed to reduce the public deficit, nearly five percent of GDP.

    "Uruguay can't bear any more taxes," he told supporters.

    Security has also declined, with a sharp rise in some violent crimes reported last year.

    In 2018, South America's second-smallest country registered a record 414 murders, up 45 percent on the year before.

    "Lacalle is the president who can improve the country, change what Broad Front did wrong economically and especially security," said Mariela Barcia, a 51-year-old teacher who voted for the conservative candidate in October.

    SOURCE: News agencies