Monday
November 24, 2014

Shift in voting intentions puts opposition ahead of ruling party

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Uruguay’s Frente Amplio looking over shoulders after new poll

By Vera Von Kreutzbruck
Herald Staff

With just six months before Uruguayans cast their vote for their next president, polls are showing that it will likely be a tight race involving a runoff, with opposition parties currently carrying more support than the governing left-wing party, Frente Amplio (FA).

According to a poll released yesterday, 43 percent of voters intend to back the Frente Amplio on October 26 — short of the margin required for victory. Totalled together, the survey revealed that opposition parties would reach 47 percent, giving them a four percent lead over the ruling party.

The survey, released by consulting firm Factum, said that 27 percent would vote for Partido Nacional, with 15 percent for Partido Colorado and four percent for Partido Independiente (PI).

However, the poll also showed that undecided voters and “blank votes” could be kingmakers. They were a significant group: 10 percent of surveyed citizens, and five percent respectively.

These results indicate a shift in the voters’ intentions with respect to some months back, when the government still had a comfortable lead. If elections were to take place today, the candidates would head to a run-off.

In Uruguay, to avoid a runoff in presidential elections the threshold for victory in the first round is 50 percent plus one vote.

José “Pepe” Mujica, 78, will conclude his presidential term, the second for the FA, in March 2015.

Changes in voting intentions for the FA has been “permanently fluctuating between 41 and 43 percent”, Factum head Oscar Bottinelli told local media on Monday.

The Partido Nacional is now scoring lower results than it was almost two years ago, with numbers now reaching 24 percent from a previous high of 28 percent, he added.

Partido Colorado has shown slightly more stability, with consistent results of between 15 percent and 17 percent.

With respect to the party’s internal elections, scheduled for June 1, Bottinelli said that the Partido Nacional will get the most attention due to the strong competition between pre-candidates Jorge Larrañaga y Luis Lacalle Pou.

In contrast, Pedro Bordaberry will most likely win the candidacy for Partido Colorado, while former president Tabaré Vázquez would win for Frente Amplio.

In March, consulting firm Cifra published a survey indicating a similar trend, with the sum of the votes for the Nacional and Colorado political parties polling higher than the total gathered by the official political party.

In this survey, the Frente Amplio garnered 44 percent of votes, 30 percent went to Partido Nacional, Partido Colorado took 17 percent and Partido Independiente just two percent.

Luis Eduardo González, director of Cifra, said at the time that the scenario highlighted a “very rare, exotic result”, which had “practically never been seen before.”

Free trade

The parties in opposition to the government have tried this week to put trade on the agenda, as it seeks to capitalize on its advantage over the FA opposition senator and potential presidential candidate Bordaberry of the Colorado party sent a letter to President Mujica on Monday, pressuring him to sign a free trade agreement with the United States when he visits President Barack Obama at the White House on May 12.

Mujica has ruled out inking such an agreement and is keener on reaching a trade agreement between the South American trade bloc Mercosur and the European Union (EU), according to local media reports.

“Trade deals should be entered into carefully,” Mujica told local reporters at a press conference presenting the new board of the Banco República.

“‘For years we have preferred to work on one line at a time, on concrete things, and not just write papers,” he added.

Analysts believe the Mercosur deal is more important to the left-wing leader.

“Signing such an agreement (FTA) would harm the ongoing negotiations, which have been put on hold since 2004, to expand the list of products to be traded between the Mercosur and the EU,” Alejandro Robba, economist and coordinator of the Business degree programme at the National University of Moreno told the Herald.

“If Uruguay had favourable customs duties for their products exported to the US, in comparison to the duties given to other Mercosur countries, then this bilateral agreement would be against the rules of the Mercosur.”

In 2007, Uruguay and the United States signed a bilateral Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA), which is still used currently by the South American country to export citrus fruits and lamb-meat to the US.

Back then former Uruguayan president Tabaré Vázquez decided to sign the TIFA and not a wider free trade agreement, similar to the existing accords the US has with Chile and Mexico, due to his party’s strong opposition to it.

@vkreutzbruck

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