Uruguayans voted Sunday to uphold more than 100 legal changes introduced by President Luis Lacalle Pou in a referendum that could help his government implement more market-friendly reforms.
The “no” vote to maintain intact Lacalle Pou’s 2020 flagship omnibus law, including limits on the right to strike and curbs on the government’s ability to run deficits, had 47.3 percent of total votes with all precincts reporting, according to preliminary results published by the Electoral Court.
The “yes” vote to repeal 135 articles of the law was trailing with 46.3 percent. Blank ballots that are assigned to the “no” column totalled almost 1.3 percent of the vote.
Speaking in a press conference just before midnight Sunday, Lacalle Pou said his government will focus on its policy agenda that includes overhauling the pension system, trade deals and addressing high inflation.
“This week we are going to have an important meeting about prices. We are going to take more measures with different products,” he said.
Lacalle Pou, who started his five-year term in March 2020, enjoys high popularity after a successful Covid-19 vaccination programme and a rebound in the economy.
An aggressive grass roots campaign by the leftist Frente Amplio ("Broad Front") coalition, labour unions and activists failed to tip the scales in favour of the “yes” vote.
Referendum backers campaigned against the law saying it undermines one of Latin America’s strongest welfare states, erodes labour rights and promotes police brutality. The ruling coalition said the reforms are essential to fight crime and maintain healthy public finances.
Many analysts say Uruguay’s sluggish economy needs reform to jump-start growth and sustain the generous social programs and high living standards its population expects. Lacalle Pou has pledged to submit a social security reform bill to congress this year.
Sunday’s vote was compulsory with almost 2.7 million people eligible to cast a ballot.
by Ken Parks, Bloomberg