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8 Fast Facts on Uruguay's 2014 Presidential Runoff

Uruguayans vote for president on November 30. (AP)

Monday, November 24, 2014

The second round of Uruguay’s presidential vote takes place November 30, given that the general election saw no candidate able to garner more than 50 percent of the vote. During the first round, ex-President Tabaré Vázquez earned 47.8 percent, and Congressman Luis Lacalle Pou came in second with 30.9 percent. Now, Vázquez maintains an ample lead in the polls and stands poised to enter his country’s highest office once again. Get the facts about the election and candidates.

1. If the polls are correct, a former president will win the vote.

Ex-President Tabaré Vázquez, running on the ruling Broad Party ticket, leads the polls. A November 18 Equipos Mori survey gave him 51 percent, with the National Party's Luis Lacalle Pou at 38 percent. The same day, a Factum poll showed the former president with a 15-point lead, and a November 21 Grupo Radar poll showed a closer margin of 10 points. If he wins, Vázquez will serve his second non-consecutive five-year term.

Hear an expert view on Uruguay's runoff.

2. Vázquez left office with high approval ratings.

In office from 2005 to 2010, Vázquez finished his term with a 60 percent approval rating. During his presidency, poverty fell by around 46 percent, and tax reforms helped benefit the working and middle classes. Vázquez also focused on education, tripling public school funding and launching a computer initiative that gave 380,000 free laptops to students and teachers.

3. The opposition candidate is the son of a former president.

Lacalle Pou is only 40 years old and is the son of former President Luis Alberto Lacalle, who served from 1990 to 1995. The candidate is a three-term federal congressman and eked out a surprise primary win to run on the National Party ticket.

4. The historically powerful Colorado Party threw its support behind the National Party after the first round.

The Colorado Party—the most elected party to the country’s presidency—decided to endorse Lacalle Pou for the runoff vote. The party had one of its worst-ever showings in October, winning less than 13 percent of the vote.

5. The two candidates differ on the country’s marijuana policy.

Last year, Uruguay became the first country to legalize the growth, sale, and use of marijuana. Lacalle Pou said he would send a bill to Congress to modify the law, repealing most of the legislation except for the parts allowing personal cultivation and cannabis clubs. Vázquez supports the law, but said that if selling the drug in pharmacies doesn’t work well, he will change that part of the legislation. He also said he’d use the marijuana buyer registry the law created in order to encourage treatment for drug use.

6. Vázquez and Lacalle Pou diverge on whether to accept detainees from Guantanamo Bay.

In May, President José Mujica said his country would accept U.S. detainees from Guantanamo Bay. But the prison transfer hasn’t happened yet, and both candidates disagree on whether the move should happen. Lacalle Pou opposes accepting the detainees; Vázquez supports it.

Get the numbers on Uruguay's election.

7. The ruling party’s Senate majority depends on the vote.

While the Broad Front won a majority in the lower house on October 26, its majority in the Senate rests on the November 30 runoff. If Vázquez wins, his vice president will become the deciding vote in the upper house. During the first round, the Broad Front won 15 out of 31 seats in the Senate.

8. Around 250,000 new young voters are eligible to vote in this election.

A quarter million voters aged 22 and younger are able to vote for president for the first time this year. In Uruguay, voting is mandatory starting at age 18. Overall, over 2.6 million Uruguayans—or 77 percent of the population—are eligible to vote this year.