With a narrow margin, the Government wins a key referendum for its management

Dozens of people celebrate the triumph of the

© EFE/ Raul Martinez
Dozens of people celebrate the victory of the “No” vote during the referendum, in Montevideo, Uruguay, on March 27, 2022. The Uruguayan Executive came out stronger after the referendum against the Urgent Consideration Law (LUC), its star project.

By only 22,000 votes difference, the majority of Uruguayans supported the option not to repeal 135 of 476 articles of the so-called Law of Urgent Consideration (LUC), promoted by President Luis Lacalle Pou. It is a regulation at the heart of a reform proposed by the center-right Executive that ranges from the conditions to adjust fuel prices to the role of public companies in the economy, education and work, among others.

The government of Uruguayan President Luis Lacalle Pou won a key referendum for his administration, but the result also denotes the strong polarization in the country.

With around 100% of the votes counted, according to data from the Electoral Court, 1,084,928 of the citizens, 51%, voted for ‘No’, the option promoted by the president. Included in this election are the 28,664 blank votes that are added to the alternative in the country’s consultations.

Meanwhile, 1,063,455 people, about 49%, opted for the ‘Yes’, for which the opposition campaigned.

“Stage over, we continue with the same optimism, with the same desire”, declared Lacalle Pou, after learning of the triumph of his initiative.

The opposition recognized its defeat. “50% of the valid votes required to annul the 135 articles of the LUC have not been exceeded, despite having achieved a very important expression of citizens that has allowed us to be very close to achieving our goal,” he said in a statement. The National Commission Votes Yes.

85% of the people summoned to the polls participated in this process of compulsory suffrage, indicated the Electoral Court.

What does the reform that was taken to a referendum consist of?

The result of the popular consultation means that 135 of the 476 articles of the so-called Law of Urgent Consideration (LUC) will not be repealed.

It is a regulation that modifies dozens of articles of other laws. It changes various issues ranging from the conditions for adjusting fuel prices, to the role of public companies in the economy, education, employment, security, the ability to pay for goods in cash and the Uruguayan criminal process, by increasing penalties for crimes such as the occupation of public spaces and limits street protests.

In addition, it stipulates the demonopolization of some state services such as Internet, telephony, electricity or hydrocarbons.

This law was enacted in 2020 and constitutes the legislative backbone of the Government of Lacalle Pou.

However, it received criticism both for its content and for having been approved urgently, without time for in-depth debate and in the midst of the restrictions of the Covid-19 pandemic.

For the president, the reform “is designed for the good of all Uruguayans.”

But the left, contained in the Broad Front party that governed the country for 15 years until the arrival of Lacalle Pou, also known as the “omnibus law”, due to the number of issues it contains, violates important rights of the population and encourages police abuse.

The referendum was held after the opposition managed to collect around 800,000 signatures, a record in the country’s history, to try to challenge the law at the polls.

A victory for Lacalle Pou that brings to light the polarization in Uruguay

Only 22,000 votes difference led Lacalle Pou to win to maintain the reform that is at the heart of the changes in his Government.

The popular consultation demonstrated a notorious political division of the country into two halves, as occurred in the second round of the 2019 presidential elections, which gave victory to the current president against the leftist Daniel Martínez.

“Uruguayans have shown that half of us are on this side. What ruler would not listen to one half carefully, sensitively?” said Fernando Pereira, president of the opposition Broad Front, in a speech in a square before thousands of supporters.

Beyond pronouncing for or against the legislative reform, the consultation campaign, in fact, turned towards supporting or rejecting the current government.

Faced with demands for “dialogue” by the left, the president responded that Parliament is “the place where a synthesis of different opinions is made.”

Likewise, he highlighted that there were already conversations that allowed the modification of 279 articles of the LUC before its promulgation in the Legislative. There, the right that holds the majority prevailed, but in the streets the division is still evident.

With AP, EFE and local media

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