Sunday, October 25, 2009

Uruguayan Elections 2009

My penultimate day in Uruguay was spent witnessing the Uruguayan elections, a once-in-five-year opportunity. At stake were the presidency, the Chamber of Deputies, the Senate and two referendums (on whether to repeal the constitutional clause that protects the military dictatorship from being tried and whether to allow Uruguayans residing abroad to vote). As I mentioned earlier, this was a very exciting event, for all Uruguayans residing in the country are required to vote and thus people are very passionate about politics.

Having spent the past few weeks in Uruguay, I was well informed of which parties and candidates were running for the presidency, Chamber of Deputies and the Senate. I could probably identify the party colors since their flags are more ubiquitous than the Uruguayan flag. I have to admit that I could not wait for the elections to be over with as I was tired of all the campaign advertisements, both print and on TV; tired of people handing me campaign flyers (can you believe that they think I am Uruguayan?) and tired of the litter that these flyers generate.

On election day, the streets of Pocitos, the neighborhood where I was staying at, normally quiet, was filled with people. At the polling place, which is mostly in an academic institution, each person has to show his or her voter registration booklet or card and then enter an empty room filled with flyers. Inside, the voter would place his or her preferred party list (listing the senators and deputies in order of preference, as they vote along party lines), which is identical to the ubiquitous flyers handed out on the streets, and a flyer with “si”, if he or she supported the referendum, into an envelope. The voter would then exit the room and place the sealed envelope into the locked ballot box.

With my host family, I attended a huge post-election rally for the Frente Amplio (FA) party. The event was like a huge party, with fireworks, flags and food! I wish elections in the U.S. were this colorful. Unfortunately, it appeared that the FA was headed for a run-off at the end of November so I will not know the result for a while.

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