[JURIST] Uruguay began voting on Sunday to elect a new president to succeed current leader Jose Mujica [BBC backgrounder]. Mujica’s leftist party, the Broad Front, is being represented by former President Tabare Vazquez [official website, in Spanish]. The opposing right wing party, the National Party, is being represented by Luis Lacalle Pou [official website, in Spanish]. Though Mujica remains popular [BBC report] at the close of his term, the opposing National Party has campaigned on the platform of undoing some of the liberal social reforms that Mujica and his administration put into effect. Earlier this year Vazquez and the Broad Front appeared poised to win the election, but since Pou has won the National Party’s primary election, he has been steadily climbing in the polls. Many have speculated that it is unlikely either party will win the presidential election without a second round of voting. The Broad Front could also lose its majority in Congress, as voters are electing the vice president and members of parliament.
Mujica and his administration have put into effect various liberal social reforms that Pou and the National Party could attempt to undo if they win the election. In December 2013 Mujica signed into law [JURIST report] a controversial plan to oversee the production and sale of marijuana in Uruguay. The bill made Uruguay the first country to have a system that regulates marijuana production and sale, as the use of cannabis was already legal in Uruguay. In April 2013 the Uruguay House of Representatives gave final approval [JURIST report] of the Marriage Equality Law, which allows same-sex couples to marry. In October 2012 Mujica signed a bill [JURIST report] legalizing abortion. The bill provides no restrictions on abortion in the first 12 weeks of pregnancy. After the first 12 weeks it provides that women must go before a medical panel and go through a five-day “reflection” period before undergoing the procedure. This bill made Uruguay only the second Latin American country to legalize abortion. In October 2011 the House voted [JURIST report] 50-40 to revoke a 25-year-old amnesty law, which prevented investigations, adjudications and human rights prosecutions of military junta officials during their regime between 1973-1985.