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December 17, 2014
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Uruguayan election a two- horse race, say voters

Broad Front lashes out at polls showing Lacalle Pou gaining ground on frontrunner Tabaré Vázquez

MONTEVIDEO — Uruguayans believe their forthcoming election is just a two-horse race, the latest polls show, with the vote scheduled for October 26 likely to come down to a straight choice between former president Tabaré Vázquez and his main rival, conservative Luis Lacalle Pou.

According to a new survey from consulting firm Interconsult, around 86 percent of respondents believe the election will come down to a runoff between Vázquez, from the ruling Broad Front and Lacalle Pou, the youthful candidate put forward by the National Party (Blancos).

Both frontrunners have a family history with the presidency — Lacalle Pou is the middle son of former president Luis Alberto Lacalle, while Vázquez himself is a former head of state.

Vázquez, a 74-year-old medical oncologist who ruled the country between 2005 and 2010, has Raúl Sendic as his running mate, while Lacalle Pou, 41-year-old congressman, has teamed up with Senator Jorge Larrañaga.

The Broad Front candidate is the clear favourite to replace current President José Mujica, with 40 percent of voting intentions for the first round. That, however, is not enough to win outright — Lacalle Pou is trailing ten points behind with 30 percent, meaning a runoff is anticipated.

At present time, just 13 percent of voters intend to back third-placed Colorado Party candidate, Senator Pedro Bordaberry, a gap analysts believe is too big to scale.

“Bordaberry will have to accept the idea that Lacalle Pou is the only candidate that can beat Vázquez,” Juan Carlos Doyenart, director of polling firm Interconsult, told a local radio station yesterday.

A second poll, published yesterday by Factum, also confirmed the election is a two-horse race but indicated that the runoff will be extremely hard to call. Asking voters which candidate they “prefer,” Factum gave Vázquez 50 percent to Lacalle Pou’s 48 percent.

‘Undecideds’ and ‘blanks’ still up for grabs

So, as previous polls have also shown, undecided voters and “blank votes” could be crucial to deciding who follows current President José “Pepe” Mujica into office.

There is a significant amount of citizens that are either undecided (eight percent), or intend to cast a “blank vote” (five percent), according to Interconsult, meaning around 13 percent of the vote is still up for grabs. An earlier survey by the same company, conducted in April, showed undecideds at 10 percent and the “blank vote” at five percent, so little has changed on that front over the past two months.

But despite polling first, the Vázquez camp will be concerned by the figures — while the current tally is still a win, it also shows the former head of state is losing his lead. In February earlier this year, he scored a huge 59 percent of voting intentions with Factum, in April this fell to 55 percent, in July to 51 percent and now, in August, it stands at 50 percent.

The opposite has occurred with Lacalle Pou, who in February had 34 percent, in April moved up to 40 percent, in July to 46 percent and now in August has 48 percent.

Broad Front: companies trying to ‘influence’ voters

These statistical changes over the past few months have raised questions in the Broad Front, which has hinted that polling companies are trying to “influence people” against them with their surveys.

“How reliable are these polls?” Vázquez said earlier this week when confronted about his falling polling numbers. “They just seek to influence the way people think, but the Uruguayan people are smart. That’s why I reiterate that in October the Broad Front will win by parliamentary majority.”

President José Mujica has also criticized pollsters and said during his weekly radio programme that something similar happened during the previous election campaign in 2009.

“If we would have believed the polls, I would not have been voted president,” Mujica said during the radio show.

On Monday, while celebrating the country’s national holiday Mujica called for “national unity” ahead of the election, saying there were no “enemies” in Uruguay, just “opponents.”

“Today is a day to be together, especially with electoral challenges we have ahead, because in this country we have opponents, not enemies,” the president said.

In related news, the state opened registration yesterday for those who wish to grow marijuana at home for personal consumption, following last year’s law approving the establishment of a legalized market in the country.

The future of the programme remains unclear however — Lacalle Pou, has said he will repeal parts of the legislation if elected.

Herald with AP, Reuters

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