The November 1989 Elections
Of the dozen candidates running for the presidency in the elections of November 26, 1989, the two front-runners were the National Party's Lacalle and the ruling Colorado Party's Batlle Ibáñez. Both were from political families and were grandsons of the founders of their respective parties. The tradition of public service went back even further for Lacalle; his great-grandfather, Juan José de Herrera, was minister of foreign affairs in Blanco governments in the nineteenth century. Batlle Ibáñez--a lawyer, senator, and leader of the Colorado Party's majority sector, United Batllism (Batllismo Unido--BU)--descended from three presidents: his great-grandfather Lorenzo Batlle y Grau (1868-72), his great- uncle José Batlle y Ordóñez (1903-07, 1911-15), and his father, Luis Batlle Berres (1947-51).
The personalities of Lacalle and Batlle Ibáñez, rather than policy differences, dominated the campaign, although the issues debated were the ones that traditionally distinguished the two parties. Whereas the Colorado Party emphasized the role of the government in promoting the national welfare, the National Party focused on Uruguay's people and society as being primarily responsible for their own destiny. The more controversial issues included "privatization" of state enterprises---such as the telephone company and ports--and the extension of university education to the interior. Both Batlle Ibáñez and Lacalle advocated reducing the state's economic role, seeking foreign investment, and taking on the leftist-led unions. One difference was that Batlle Ibáñez favored paying the country's foreign debt, whereas Lacalle favored renegotiating it. In a televised debate in October 1989, Batlle Ibáñez repeatedly noted their agreement on issues, while Lacalle distanced himself from his opponent, thereby apparently outscoring him. In general, the campaign was very respectful and lacking in "dirty tricks."
Other 1989 presidential candidates included, on the Blanco side: Carlos Julio Pereyra, leftist leader of the MNR; Alberto Sáenz de Zumarán, a strongly antimilitary centrist endorsed by the Social Christian Movement (Movimiento Social Cristiano--MSC); and the CNH's Francisco Ubilles. On the Colorado side, candidates included Sanguinetti's former minister of labor and social welfare, Hugo Fernández Faingold, the MAS leader; and Jorge Pacheco Areco, the former president (1967-72) and later ambassador to Paraguay, as well as leader of the Colorado and Batllist Union (Unión Colorada y Batllista--UCB), who ran on a ticket with Pablo Millor Coccaro, whom he selected late in the campaign. Pacheco's authoritarian and austere administration had been widely disliked, and Pacheco had spent his previous seventeen years out of the country--even serving as an ambassador for the military regime--but many Uruguayans still nostalgically identified him with a long-gone period of economic stability and security.
Of the National Party's three candidates--Pereyra, Zumarán, and Lacalle--Lacalle initially had the least support among party members (20 percent), as compared with Pereyra (28 percent) and Zumarán (46 percent), according to a poll commissioned by a weekly news magazine, Búsqueda, in July 1988. This standing was reversed, however, by September 1989 when, according to a poll in Montevideo published by Búsqueda, 52 percent of those questioned voted for Lacalle, 34 percent for Pereyra, and 10 percent for Zumarán.
The total number of people duly registered to vote in the November 26, 1989, presidential elections was 2.4 million, of which 47.3 percent were Montevideo city residents and 52.7 percent were from the country's nineteen departments. In an upset for the Colorado Party, Lacalle and his running mate, Gonzalo Aguirre Ramírez, won after their party garnered 37.7 percent of the 2 million votes cast, compared with the Colorado Party's 29.2 percent, the Broad Front's 20.6 percent, and the New Sector's meager 8.6 percent. Other parties, including the EE-PV, received a total of 3.9 percent.
The other big winner was the Broad Front, whose mayoral candidate, Tabaré Vázquez, captured Montevideo's municipal government. Vázquez, a cancer specialist and professor of oncology, as well as a member of the PSU's central committee, became the city's first Marxist mayor by obtaining 35 percent of the total vote.
The Colorado Party lost not only the elections but also ten departments and fifteen seats in the Chamber of Representatives. The National Party took seventeen departments, obtaining thirtynine of the ninety-nine seats in the Chamber of Representatives; the Colorado Party, thirty; the Broad Front, twenty-one; and the New Sector, nine. Of the thirty Senate seats, the Blancos won twelve, the Colorados nine, the Broad Front seven, and the New Sector two. Aguirre's own fledgling RV party overtook the veteran PLP and equaled the MNR by winning 112,000 votes, thereby winning two seats in the Senate and three in the Chamber of Representatives.
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