Uruguayan Former president Tabare Vazquez is expected to announce in coming days that he will effectively be the ruling Broad Front candidate for next year’s presidential election when President Jose Mujica’s five year term comes to an end.
However his much expected decision will not be that simple because his figure has been questioned from inside the coalition and he is extremely fearful of the economic legacy he will inherit if he is finally elected.
“Much will depend on biology and events” Vazquez has repeatedly expressed and at the same time calling for caution in expenditure and no increases in next year’s budget because the ‘tail wind’ is coming to an end. And he should know since he ruled (2005/2010) and benefited enormously with the boom in commodities’ prices and demand, but now all forecasts coincide tough years lie ahead particularly because in the ten years of the catch-all coalition Broad Front rule, savings in the years of enviable growth have been minimum, if any, and one thing is to manage abundance and another completely different scarcity of resources.
Besides if the US Fed Reserve begins cutting back on bonds’ purchasing, currently negative interest rates will star to climb and the inflow to the region of capitals in recent years could easily turn into an outflow.
In recent meetings with the groups of the coalition which represent the majority of votes, Vazquez has called on avoiding ‘radical’ measures or ‘turns’ to the left as extreme groups are demanding. He has also accepted to hold primaries for the nomination of the presidential candidate as established by Uruguayan electoral law but which the Broad Front historically has preferred to avoid helping to keep cohesion.
The increase in the fiscal deficit and the hike in next year’s budget expenditure have been oncologist Vazquez main concerns as well as the recently approved legislation on marihuana consumption, a bill which he rejected point blanc on medical and ethical reasons, and that he will have to implement, in particular the sale of the drug in registered pharmacies to consumers. The Mujica administration forced the approval of the marihuana bill on party lines and despite the fact that 63% of the population was against it.
The groups calling for alternative candidacies inside the Uruguayan ruling coalition also insist in no trade or political links with the US; demand more ‘Socialist’ legislation mainly taxing the rich and the owners of the means of production.
Vazquez on the contrary wants orthodox economist Danilo Astori and his team to continue managing the Uruguayan economy, and would like to achieve the free trade agreement with the US which he was unable during his first mandate because of internal resistance. Vazquez has also pleaded for more respect for the US, recalling that in the peak of the confrontation with Argentina over the pulp mill on the River Uruguay, former President George Bush pledged political and if needed, military support.
But some groups inside the coalition believe Vazquez is not necessarily the right man for the next five years, and point out to several reasons: he will be taking office with 77 years of age and will be over 80 at the end of the five year mandate; his style of government does ‘not correspond’ to what is considered left or Socialist the party to which he was affiliated until he clashed over the abortion bill that he does not support again on medical and ethical reasons; he belongs to a generation of old (over age) leaders and it is time to let fresh air in, and for 2014; there will be an additional 300.000 voters who will be seeing the Broad Front as the ‘government party’, not the party of reform, hope and protest and although ‘popular’, Vazquez ‘does not mingle or listen sufficiently to people’.
But at the end of the day much again will depend on ‘biology (health) and the Broad Front program’ that is virtually in the hands of the radicals and the Communist party, member of the coalition, and that control many of the grass root delegates to the congress structure. The Communist party has also refused to participate in current discussions arguing that the ruling coalition has a calendar of activities to accomplish, before making any decision or dealings on the margins.
With such a profile and condemned of castigated by the radicals inside the coalition for not being truly ‘leftist’, Vazquez has a natural reach to the rest of the political spectrum which in Uruguay is mainly centre left, probably social-democrat in European terms, and that is currently orphan of strong convincing leaders in the two main opposition parties.
Nevertheless this has not prevented Vazquez from acting as the incumbent pre-candidate despite having announced in October 2011 he was taking a rest from politics. He has made speeches, toured the country and in low key expressed his disapproval of the bills on abortion and marijuana, among other public activities.
“Despite Vazquez announcement that making official his decision to run for the presidency will much depend on biology and the coalition’s government program, the fact is that it is becoming increasingly difficult for him to refuse such responsibility because he could then be seen as the man who precipitated the Broad Front’s October 2014 defeat”, said Eduardo Gonzales, a political-science scholar and pollster.
As to the opposition Gonzalez said that the Broad Front continues “to be comfortably the leading voted party; the opposition National and Colorado parties have a chance in the run-off if Vazquez drops out, but without a much needed majority in parliament”.
However the other big battle in the Broad Front and if Vazquez runs will be who is to be his companion in the presidential ticket. Although the issue ‘officially’ has not been discussed it seems increasingly possible that the current First lady and Senator Lucia Topolansky will jump into the ticket, not only because of the group that supports President Mujica and her, the Popular Participation Movement, MPP, is among the strongest in the coalition, but also their influence as former guerrillas could establish a bridge with the most radical groups.