Uruguay Votes for New President, Marijuana Reform Hangs in Balance

TEHRAN (Tasnim) - Uruguayans began voting on Sunday in a presidential election, with the ruling leftist party trying to fend off a young center-right challenger who promises to undo a pioneering marijuana law.

Uruguay Votes for New President, Marijuana Reform Hangs in Balance

Outgoing President Jose Mujica, a 79-year-old former guerrilla, is seeking to hand power back to his predecessor Tabare Vazquez.

Between them, Mujica and the 74-year-old Vazquez have delivered a decade of strong economic growth while Mujica legalized abortion, gay marriage and the production, distribution and sale of marijuana.

"We hope for the best, the people will speak," said Vazquez, who turned up promptly at the start of voting at 8 am (1000 GMT) to cast his ballot in the workers' district in Montevideo where he grew up. A crowd of locals, mostly pensioners, some of whom he greeted by name, turned up to cheer him.

Six months ago, the left-wing Broad Front ruling coalition looked a comfortable favorite to win the presidency for a third five-year term for its blend of pro-market economic policies and social welfare measures, Reuters reported.

But after an unexpected win in the National Party's primaries, Luis Lacalle Pou, 41, has climbed steadily in polls, tapping into a simmering discontent felt by many Uruguayans toward the far-reaching liberal reforms.

Opinion polls before the vote showed Vazquez winning 43-46 percent of votes to 31-33 percent for his younger rival. But that would leave him short of the 50 percent he needs for a first-round victory and facing Lacalle Pou in a tight runoff in late November.

 

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