Uruguay's ruling coalition national congress of delegates meets this weekend to decide on the presidential candidate --or hopefuls-- for next October's election, but contrary to the long tradition of the catch-all movement, no consensus has been reached or seems achievable.
Normally the Broad Front congress with a majority of two thirds of delegates would confirm an only presidential candidate, thus avoiding primary elections next June. However this time two powerful figures (plus three others) are refusing to step down, and this could make the Congress decide it's an open race, even if one of the candidates manages the required two thirds. The dispute is focused between Senator Jose Mujica, the most voted leader from the most voted seven groups which make up the ruling coalition and have parliamentary representation. The other is former Economy minister Danilo Astori, a respected economist who is believed to better attract, given his orthodox approach, outside independent votes. But he does not have the two thirds, which Mr. Mujica apparently has, adding his MPP votes and those of the Communist party. The other three hopefuls don't have the necessary votes or the charisma for the candidacy but their groups believe they could bargain for the second place in the presidential ticket. Uruguayan president Tabare Vazquez has repeatedly suggested that the best and winning ticket for 2009 is "Astori-Mujica", but he has become a lame duck and as Mr. Mujica likes to repeat "Astori might have the numbers (of the economy) right, but I have the charm and the votes, and the lads won't let me accept anything else but the head of the ticket". President Vazquez tried to break the stalemate by giving his blessings to his possible re-election, un-provided for in the Uruguayan constitution, but the attempt instead of helping was even more confusing for the militants of the ruling coalition. Whatever the results of the two days deliberations, the ruling coalition has much work ahead if it wants to recover the lost ground of the past six months with opinion polls showing it gently but sustainedly sliding to 40% while the main opposition force, National Party is closing in (39%) and with the third Colorado Party can force a run off in November. Furthermore special security for the congress has been requested from the police during the weekend because there have been serious outbreaks of violence from radical groups belonging to the coalition. They have rampaged downtown Montevideo on more than an occasion to protest government policies and only this week, during the debate on an education bill, they insulted, spat and threw coins at coalition legislators from the visitors gallery until they were forcibly taken out by security. The head of the Senate and Uruguayan vicepresident filed a judiciary complaint of "hooliganism" against the radical group's activists but the powerful Uruguayan labour unions movement (basically Communist) and other groups blamed the police for the violence and justified actions saying "they had been betrayed by the companion legislators from the coalition" for having approved a "reactionary-fascist" education bill. Meantime the radical group "Truth and Justice", involved in the incidents, from its internet site invites the Uruguayan people "to lock Parliament doors from outside and set it on fire with all members inside". Interesting weekend for Uruguay with Police forces over stretched: the country's most popular Premier League Football teams are set to clash on Sunday, and in the meantime they can monitor the ruling coalition's rounds.