Politics of Uruguay

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The politics of Uruguay abide by a presidential representative democratic republic, under which the President of Uruguay is both the head of state and the head of government, as well as a multiform party system. The president exercises executive power and legislative power and is vested in the two chambers of the General Assembly of Uruguay. The Judiciary branch is independent from that of the executive and legislature.

The Colorado and National parties have been locked in a power struggle, with the predominance of the Colorado party throughout most of Uruguay's history. The elections of 2004, however, brought the Encuentro Progresista-Frente Amplio-Nueva Mayoría, a coalition of socialists, former Tupamaros, communists, social democrats, and Christian Democrats among others to power with majorities in both houses of parliament. A majority vote elected President Tabaré Vázquez.

In 2009, the Broad Front once again won the elections with a plurality of the votes. A presidential runoff was triggered because their candidate, José Mujica, only received 47.96 percent of the vote. The Broad Front's candidate easily beat Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou of the Nacional Party in second round of voting. In addition to the presidency, the Broad Front won a simple majority in the Uruguayan Senate and Congress.


Until 1919, and from 1934 to 1952, Uruguay's political system, based on the 1830 Constitution, was presidential with a strong executive power, similar to that of the United States (but centralized and not federal). It was also characterized by the rivalry between the two traditional parties, the Colorado Party, liberal, and the Blanco Party (or National Party), conservative. Historically, the whites represented the interests of rural property, the Church and the military hierarchy, while colorados were supported by urban movable property and reformist intellectuals.

In the 19th century, the country had similar characteristics to other Latin American countries: caudillism, civil wars and permanent instability (40 revolts between 1830 and 1903), foreign capitalism's control of important sectors of the economy, high percentage of illiterate people (more than half the population in 1900), land oligarchy, etc. Yet Montevideo became a refuge for Argentine exiles fleeing the dictatorship of Juan Manuel de Rosas and maintained a reputation as a welcoming place for ideas of "advanced" political and social protest. In 1842, the newspaper Le Messager devoted a special issue to the memory of Charles Fourier. During the Great War (1843-1852), Garibaldi's red shirts fought in Montevideo even against Rosas' attacking forces. In 1875, workers founded an Internationale.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Uruguay became the most politically and socially advanced state on the continent. The liberal José Batlle y Ordóñez (in power between 1903 and 1907, then between 1911 and 1915) was the main architect of this transformation; freedom of expression and the press was affirmed, as well as that of suffrage. A system of proportional representation is adopted to allow for the representation of minorities. It also calls for the abolition of the death penalty, the fight against administrative corruption and the introduction of secularism and women's right to vote.

On the economic level, he states that "industry must not be allowed to destroy human beings, but that on the contrary the State must regulate it in order to make the lives of the masses happier. "It thus undertakes an economic policy of a dirigiste nature and nationalizes many sectors of the economy (railways, telephone, electricity, etc.). The "batllism" also takes the form of social measures: institutionalization of free and compulsory primary education, support for trade unions and recognition of the right to strike, maternity leave, an eight-hour day, etc. All this legislation, which was well advanced at the time, made Uruguay a progressive social democracy.[1]


Uruguay adopted its first constitution in 1830, following the conclusion of a three-year war in which Argentina and Uruguay fought as a regional federation: the United Provinces of Río de la Plata. Sponsored by the United Kingdom, the 1828 Treaty of Montevideo built the foundations for a Uruguayan state and constitution. A constitution proposed under the military dictatorship government was rejected by a referendum in 1980.

Executive branch[edit]

Uruguay's president Tabaré Vázquez

Uruguay's Constitution of 1967 created a strong presidency, subject to legislative and judicial balance. Many of these provisions were suspended in 1973 but reestablished in 1985. The president, who is both the head of state and the head of government, is elected by popular vote for a five-year term, with the vice president elected on the same ticket. The President must act together with the Council of Ministers, which comprises cabinet ministers, appointed by the president. Thirteen ministers head various executive departments. The ministers can be removed by the General Assembly by a majority vote.

Legislative branch[edit]

The General Assembly (Asamblea General) has two chambers. The Chamber of Representatives (Cámara de Representantes) has 99 members, elected for a five-year term by proportional representation with at least two members per department. The Chamber of Senators (Cámara de Senadores) has 31 members; 30 members are elected for a five-year term by proportional representation and the Vice-president who presides over it.

Judicial branch[edit]

The Supreme Court is the highest court.

Direct democracy[edit]

The Uruguayan constitution allows citizens to challenge laws approved by Parliament by use of a referendum or to propose changes to the Constitution by the use of a plebiscite. The Economist Intelligence Unit rated Uruguay a "full democracy" in 2018.[2][needs update]

Political parties and elections[edit]

e • d Summary of the 26 October 2014 General Assembly of Uruguay election
and the 30 November 2014 presidential election run-off.
Party or coalition
Presidential candidate
First round (General election) Second round
(Presidential runoff)
Votes % Seats
Chamber +/– Senate +/– Votes %
Broad Front
Tabaré Vázquez
1,134,187 49.45 50 0 15 –1 1,226,105 56.63
National Party
Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou
732,601 31.94 32 +2 10 +1 939,074 43.37
Colorado Party
Pedro Bordaberry
305,699 13.33 13 –4 4 –1
Independent Party
Pablo Mieres
73,379 3.20 3 +1 1 +1
Popular Unity
Gonzalo Abella
26,869 1.17 1 +1 0 0
Partido Ecologista Radical Intransigente
César Vega
17,835 0.78 0 N/A 0 N/A
Workers' Party
Rafael Fernández
3,218 0.14 0 N/A 0 N/A
Total 2,372,117 100 99 0 30 0 2,321,230 100
Invalid/blank votes 78,329 156,051
Registered voters/turnout 2,620,791 90.51 2,620,791 88.57
Source: Corte Electoral, Buenos Aires Herald

International organization participation[edit]

Uruguay or Uruguayan organizations participate in the following international organizations:


  1. ^ Latin America in the 20th century: 1889-1929, 1991, p. 186-191
  2. ^ The Economist Intelligence Unit (8 January 2019). "Democracy Index 2018: Me Too?". The Economist Intelligence Unit. Retrieved 13 January 2019.

External links[edit]