Uruguayans Elect Conservative President

Uruguay will have a new president on March 1. Luis Lacalle Pou of the center-right National Party beat left-wing Daniel Martínez after a heavily contested runoff election.

The race between the two rivals was too close to call until the last vote was counted on Friday, officials said. However, on Thursday, Martinez announced on Twitter that it was apparent that Lacalle Pou would retain his small but decisive lead of about one percentage point, according to Reuters.

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The presidential candidate for Uruguay’s Partido Nacional party, Luis Lacalle, addresses supporters, following the results in the run-off election, in Montevideo on Nov.24, 2019 (Pablo Porciuncula/AFP/Getty Images)

“The tendency did not change as the vote count was scrutinized further,” Martinez wrote to Twitter, “so I greet the president-elect @LuisLacallePou, with whom I will have a meeting tomorrow. I thank everyone who placed their trust in us by casting their vote for us from the bottom of my heart,” he added.

Lacalle Pou’s win came after a very tight runoff race on Nov. 24 between the two candidates. None of the initial 11 candidates garnered 50 percent of the votes necessary to decide the first electoral round last month. Lacalle eventually won the second round with the support of candidates who did not make it past the first round.

Martínez’s Broad Front coalition had been ruling for 15 years. It had achieved many socialist ideals like recognition of gay marriage, legalization of marijuana and abortion, and implemented an extensive welfare system.

Under Martinez’s socialist government, the growth of the country’s agriculture-based economy had been slowing down in recent years.

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The presidential candidate for Uruguay’s left-wing coalition Frente Amplio, Daniel Martinez, addresses supporters following first results in the run-off election, in Montevideo on Nov. 24, 2019 (Eitan Abramovich/AFP/Getty Images)

Lacalle Pou, who had won with 48.7 percent of the votes over 47.5 percent for Martínezto, promised to push for stronger rule of law and cut down on state expenditures for social programs, BBC reported.

Meanwhile, he acknowledged the fact that almost half the country had voted for the other candidate and therefore called for unison.

“Almost half voted for one candidate, and the other half plus a little bit for another candidate,” Lacalle Pou said, according to The New York Times.

“Today’s result confirms that the next government can’t change one half of the country for another. We must unite society. We must unite Uruguayans,” he said, possibly indicating that he’s willing to settle for compromises in the future to maintain wide support.