Luis Lacalle Pou has emerged victorious, albeit fairly, from a tough electoral dispute with the Broad Front, the main opposition force in Uruguay. 51.17% of Uruguayans voted in a referendum not to repeal 135 articles of an omnibus law considered vital by the Executive. The “no” option surpassed the “yes” option by 50,000 votes, which called for the annulment of the articles. “Stage passed,” said President Lacalle Pou on Sunday night, once the results were known.
Uruguayans voted not to repeal 135 articles of the 476 that constitute the so-called Law of Urgent Consideration (LUC), sent by Luis Lacalle Pou at the beginning of his Government, two years ago. The norm, considered the base of the program of the Uruguayan right, retouches dozens of articles of other laws, which have altered their original spirit.
The range of topics is very wide: from the conditions to adjust the price of fuel or new limits on the right to strike to the role of the State in the economy, education, work or security. Among other points, it establishes, for example, the demonopolization of some state services such as internet, telephony, electricity or hydrocarbons. It also increases penalties for crimes such as occupying public spaces, and limits street protests.
Lacalle Pou said this Sunday that the law “is designed for the good of all Uruguayans.” For the left, gathered in the Broad Front, the force that governed Uruguay for 15 years until the arrival of the current conservative president, the omnibus law violates important rights of the population and encourages police abuse. That is why he opposed her in Congress, but without being able to break the majority held by the right. Losing the legislative battle, the Broad Front then managed to gather almost 800,000 signatures, all a record in the history of the South American country, to force the constitutional mechanism of challenging a law and take it to the polls.
The referendum thus became much more than the discussion of a hundred controversial articles. The campaign veered towards supporting or rejecting the administration of Lacalle Pou, at the head of an alliance of five parties ranging from European-style social democracy to the harshest nationalist options. The Broad Front demonstrated its power of mobilization in the streets with the collection of signatures, but it was unable to transfer this success to the polls. “We were very close to reaching our objective” of annulling the 135 articles of the LUC, said the command for the “yes” in a statement in which it admitted defeat.
Lacalle Pou has finally emerged stronger, although the result showed that Uruguay is divided into two large coalitions that represent the electorate almost equally. The president of the Broad Front, Fernando Pereira, warned that the government and the opposition must now “seek consensus that can enable laws that have more support than just one half.”
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