Uruguay's ruling coalition and the main opposition National party have finally worked out their presidential tickets for October's general election, following on the results, and subsequent negotiations, of the June first primary elections.
In the Broad Front former president Tabare Vazquez who in the primaries came comfortably ahead with almost 80% of votes cast will have as his vice-president candidate in the ticket Raúl Sendic, the son of the founder and main leader of the Tupamaros urban guerrilla movement active in Uruguay in the sixties and early seventies.
Sendic, 52, has been a member of parliament, minister and until a few months ago the head of Uruguay's government owned fuels and cement company Ancap, one of the largest of the country which includes the country's only oil refinery plus cement and bio-fuel plants.
To everybody's surprise Sendic's group identified in the primaries with the number 711 collected the most votes, 21%, followed closely by current Vice-president Danilo Astori's groupings with 19.5%.
Since in the ruling coalition nobody disputed Vazquez candidacy given his strong standing in the polls, the real fight was for the vice-president post in the October ticket. Several names with different sponsors were in the race: First Lady and Senator Lucia Topolansky; the Broad Front chairwoman Monica Xavier and Marina Arizmendi, supported by the MPP (Popular Participation Movement aligned with president Jose Mujica); the Socialist party and Astori; the Communist party, respectively.
However Sendic surprised everybody and demanded his place in the October ticket. Mujica's grouping, the Communist party and other minor organizations immediately supported him, while vice-president Astori insisted it had to be a decision from the whole coalition convention. In the almost two weeks since June first, the majority of the main coalition groups accepted Sendic, with Astori the only hold out. Relations between the two are not good and several potential conflicts are brewing.
Thus the Broad Front ticket for October only needs the formal approval of the coalition's convention, where Astori has no chances of stopping or even attempting to force another name instead of Sendic. President Mujica gave Sendic his full support and recalled that a couple of years before had openly suggested the young lad has a very bright future.
Likewise in the National party the situation has gone through its own long period of nerves and negotiations. Against all forecasts, until 48 hours before the June first ballot, underdog Luis Lacalle Pou was trailing Senator Jorge Larrañaga (57) by several points, but those points changed sides that Sunday evening and the veteran leader of the party had to accept defeat to the 41 year old lawmaker who campaigned promising renewal and positive thinking.
Traditionally in the National party the 1-2 result of the primaries is reflected in the presidential ticket. However a shell-shocked Larrañaga after admitting defeat and full responsibility, congratulated the winner and left for his farm to meditate and never again run for office be it not for a junior post.
However the primaries also confirmed a several months long tendency in the public opinion polls: a united opposition (National and junior Colorado opposition party) could defeat the ruling coalition in the second round (next November) something which was unthinkable only a year ago.
But for this the first step is a strong cohesion of the National party which definitively has two wings, and without Larrañaga this was not possible. Lacalle Pou and his emissaries repeatedly offered him the second place in the October presidential ticket, but until a couple of days ago it was to no avail.
Finally the mayors of the counties which are aligned behind Larrañaga pointed out that if there was no agreement with Lacalle Pou, they could not guarantee that local votes would not cross to the Broad Front as many did in the previous 2009 election when a similar situation.
This apparently was the convincing argument and on Friday Lacalle Pou visited Larrañaga at his Montevideo flat and they agreed on the presidential ticket for 26 October and on the party's manifesto, which originally both admitted had some different shades.
My trench is next to Luis Lacalle Pou. Who am I to say no to my glorious National party. I am a public servant, a recovered Larrañaga declared to the media awaiting the result of the meeting.
This has been a great meeting, it's far more than what I had dreamt of, said Lacalle Pou.
The other main party of Uruguayan politics, currently junior in the opposition has a presidential candidate Pedro Bordaberry who managed a 4 to 1 difference over his challenger, but has yet to decide on his running mate. In a rather depressing 37% turnout for a primary and with all parties losing votes compared to five years ago, the Colorados with Bordaberry where the only ones to manage a 10% turnout increase, but still far behind the ruling coalition and the National party.