The Uruguay Presidential elections were held yesterday. In order to secure the Presidential post, the candidate must receive 50% plus one of the votes. Jose "Pepe" Mujica was just shy of that number, with 47.5% of the votes. Luis Alberto Lacalle received 28.5% of the votes and Pedro Bordaberry received 17% of the votes. (for more details on the political parties in Uruguay, click here)
Because no Presidential Candidate received 50% plus one of the votes, there will be a runoff election on November 29 between the top two Uruguayan Presidential Candidates (Mujica and Lacalle) to decide who will be the next President of Uruguay. For more information on this year’s Uruguay Presidential Elections, visit El Pais, the Uruguay newspaper.
What we’ve found most interesting about the Uruguay Presidential Elections is the level of involvement by Uruguay’s citizens. It seems that everyone is passionate about politics and gets deeply involved. There are people on every street corner handing out information on the candidate they support. And it seems like there’s a rally every other day for one of the candidates.
It’s not uncommon to see one of the Presidential candidates on a street corner giving a speech to a large group of people. Lacalle has a small campaign office across the street from our apartment and has given speeches there.
Even though voting is compulsory (there’s a fine of UY$400, or less than U$S 20, for not voting), the people of Uruguay care deeply about what happens with their government and take their freedom very seriously.
In a country of a little over 3.4 million people there are approximately 2.5 million people who are eligible to vote. It’s reported that voter turnout for the Uruguay Presidential Election was above 90%. That means over 2.25 million people voted in the 2009 Uruguayan Presidential Election.
Perhaps this is because Uruguay was under the rule of a dictator from 1973 to 1984 (when the first free elections were held). So, the people of Uruguay still remember what it was like to be oppressed by their government.
We never saw this level of involvement in politics in the US, or anything close to it. In the 2008 US Presidential elections, there was a 56.8% voter turnout. This was the highest voter turnout for a US Presidential Election since 1968, which was still only a 60.8% voter turnout. (source)
A lot of US citizens go to the polls uninformed about the candidates and issues on the ballot. Perhaps many US citizens take their freedom for granted because they have had it for as long as they can remember…
Whatever the reason, it’s refreshing to be part of a community that truly cares about the direction of the country.