Leftist leads Uruguay election but faces run-off

Final results are expected to show that neither candidate captured more than half the vote, meaning they will go to a second round on Nov. 29.

Leftist leads Uruguay election but faces run-off

A former left-wing guerrilla fighter took a commanding lead in Uruguay's presidential election on Sunday but was headed for a run-off to steer one of Latin America's steadiest economies.

With 21 percent of vote stations reporting, Jose Mujica, a 74-year-old senator who was jailed during Uruguay's 1973-85 military dictatorship, had 40.6 percent of the vote compared to 34.7 percent for former center-right president Luis Lacalle.

Final results are expected to show that neither candidate captured more than half the vote, meaning they will go to a second round on Nov. 29. One recent poll showed Mujica, from Uruguay's ruling socialist governing coalition, would defeat Lacalle in any run-off.

"Uruguayans are asking us for one more push. We're on our way to victory. We're going to have to fight," Mujica told thousands of flag-waving supporters.

"He's one of us, an ordinary person with ordinary defects. That's what makes him special," said Baltazar Ordeix, a 46-year-old graphic designer and Mujica backer.

Mujica was among the leading figures of the Tupamaros urban guerrilla movement during the 1960s and early '70s before a military dictatorship took hold.

In the second round, he will face Lacalle, a 68-year-old lawyer who has engineered a political comeback after his 1990-1995 presidential term ended with corruption accusations involving several of his top aides.

Third-place finisher Pedro Bordaberry garnered around 18 percent of the vote, exit polls showed, and he said he was throwing his support behind Lacalle.

"Survived torture"

Mujica was held for years in solitary confinement in a deep well for his activities with the Tupamaros, survived torture and long periods with nothing to do, not even a book to read.

He spent 14 years in prison, and was freed along with other political prisoners in 1985 when the dictatorship ended. He told Reuters in an interview his prison experience shaped his personality and paved the way to him becoming more moderate politically.

"I had to invent things in my head so that I wouldn't go crazy," he said. "All that ended up changing my character and helping me to see things in a different way. That's why I'm so much more serene, much calmer and since I'm nearing death I'm not in a hurry and I'm not scared. I don't have enemies."


Reuters

Last Mod: 26 Ekim 2009, 11:46
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