Uruguay's ruling coalition Broad Front opened the way for a short list of five presidential pre candidates to compete for the official candidacy for the coming general election in October 2009. The decision was taken over the week-end at a national plenary of the coalition with 172 delegates from all the country
Next week end the coalition's Congress should decide on an only name from the short list but given the ongoing rivalries and internal disputes it's hard to anticipate a definition. If no agreement is reached, --a two thirds delegates' majority vote is needed--, the ruling coalition would have to comply with primaries next June as Uruguayan legislation demands. An option the Broad Front wants to avoid, helping cool tempers. The five names of the short list are Senators Jose Mujica and Danilo Astori, Industry and Energy minister Daniel Martinez, the head of the Budget and Planning Office, Enrique Rubio and the mayor of Canelones, the second most important electoral circumscription behind the capital Montevideo. But the struggle boils down to the first two names. Mujica the most voted member of Congress from the most voted group in the coalition, and former Economy minister Astori responsible for a successful orthodox management of the Uruguayan economy and inspiring confidence outside the left wing coalition which includes radicals, Socialists, Communists, Christian Democrats, former guerrillas among others. However contrary to Uruguayan president Tabare Vazquez repeated suggestion that Astori should head the ticket and Mujica run as vice-president, both hopefuls want the first job and won't yield or accept second place. Astori has been most definitive on the issue, "I will only run for president" and Mujica has insisted that his political group and followers will only accept him as head of the presidential ticket. A mathematical projection of congress members next weekend indicates that Mujica can obtain the two thirds majority with the support of the Communist party and other groups who have promised to adhere to the winning candidate, if there's a consensus. But if no consensus is reached primaries seems to be the only way out unless the ruling coalition can find an alternative name among the other three. However Mujica's group has said that even if he's nominated by the congress as the official candidate he's open to primaries, as long as he runs as the "official candidate", with equal opportunities and resources for all other hopefuls. The Communist party meantime argues that it will help nominate the majority candidate (Mujica) because it fears the consequences of extenuating primaries. But there's another controversy on the making: several committees are discussing different amendments to introduce to the ruling coalition's government program which could be as challenging as agreeing on a presidential candidate. Grassroots and militants believe the current Vazquez administration has been far "too capitalist" and "too much business oriented" with insufficient "class struggle conscious" and too distant from the "paramount role the government must play in the economy". Meanwhile President Vazquez in a letter to the president of the Broad Front reiterated his full support to the coalition to which "I'm honoured and proud to belong" and discarded any political intention in his disaffiliation request from the Socialist party to which he belongs. President Vazquez attitude follows the Socialist party insistence in lifting his veto to a Sex and Reproduction bill (decriminalizing abortion) which he had anticipated he would not approve on moral and biological grounds. However many in the coalition fear that President Vazquez, one of the most popular leaders in recent Uruguayan history, might have second thoughts and could start his own personal political grouping.