Date: Fri, 8 Mar 1996 06:46:07 -0600
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>>> Item number 8614, dated 96/03/05 23:30:54—ALL
Date: Tue, 5 Mar 1996 23:30:54 GMT
Sender: Activists Mailing List <ACTIV-L@MIZZOU1.MISSOURI.EDU>
From: Nicaragua Solidarity Network of NY <>
Organization: Blythe Systems
Subject: Weekly News Update #317

Leader quits left coalition in Uruguay

Nicaragua Solidarity Network of Greater New York, Weekly News Update on the Americas, #317, 25 February 1996

On Feb. 5, at a ceremony celebrating the 25th anniversary of the founding of Uruguay's leftist Broad Front (FA) coalition, former general Liber Seregni announced his resignation as FA president. I can't stay in the presidency a moment longer, said Seregni, who has represented the Front in negotiations with the traditional parties for more than 20 years. Seregni was barred from political activity during Uruguay's 12-year military dictatorship (1973-1985) and was imprisoned for several years.

Seregni's resignation stemmed from the FA's failure to reach a decision on a proposed electoral reform; the former general was to convey the decision to the Colorado and National parties. I am not in a position to negotiate with the government nor with the other political parties, said Seregni. He explained that the left had to show it could rule responsibly, and criticized ongoing internal conflicts within the coalition. Tolerance is a virtue we must cultivate among party members and apply to everything, he warned.

In Uruguay's 1994 elections, the FA won its highest level of electoral support since it was founded in 1971, gaining nearly a third of the seats in the legislature. FA support has continued to increase since then, and Uruguayan polling firm Equipos Consultores reported in November 1995 that if elections were held at this time, the FA would have won 31% of the vote, against 20% each for the Colorado and National parties.

The two traditional parties want to reform the voting system to bring in a second round runoff when no presidential candidate gets a clear majority. Some sectors of the FA--mainly the Communists, Socialists and the former Tupamaro guerrillas--oppose this because they feel it hurts the Front's chances of victory. Others, like Seregni, think a second round is a risk the coalition has to take if it wants to pass other electoral reforms it has been fighting for since its creation. Under the current constitution, each party can present several presidential candidates, and the total of their votes are added up to decide which party will win overall. The FA is seeking a system where each party has only one presidential candidate.

The conflict over electoral reforms has spilled over into a dispute between the FA's two most probable presidential candidates, Senator Danilo Astori--who said he totally agreed with Seregni's criticisms--and former Montevideo mayor Tabare Vazquez. Socialist Party leader Vazquez did not attend the anniversary celebration, though he said his absence was not related to his disagreement with Seregni, whom he considered irreplaceable.

Some analysts feel that Seregni, as one of the few unaffiliated FA leaders, was uniquely able to hold together such a diverse coalition, and that a split within the Front is now inevitable. [Inter Press Service 2/7/96]