Uruguay: Pepe Mujica wins, but…

…something still smells like the same old, same old all over again:

The candidate for the Broad Front, who won 47% of the votes yesterday but could not become president and must now fight a second round, criticized the elections system in his country, where a candidate has to win fifty percent of the vote, plus one, in order to win. “We have to go on struggling,” Mujica said.

In an interview with Radio 10, Mujica said that “in some parts of the world, a party with 47% wins the elections, but in Uruguay, no.”

Mujica considers that “we have a right-wing bloc divided into two parties who help each other when the chips are down.”

Translation mine:

Ah yes, the old Blanco/Colorado oligarchy, that’s governed Uruguay for almost as long as there have been elections in that land. That’s what he’s referring to, and undoubtedly it’s true. When the same two parties keep swapping rule but nothing really changes, you know you’re dealing with a duopoly. And when the duopoly gives way to a military dictatorship, as it did during the 1970s, you know that it was a farce all along.

José “Pepe” Mujica, who fought against both the duopoly and the dictatorship at various times during his Tupamaro days, undoubtedly knows this well-scripted farce by heart. He may be 74 and look like a nice old grandfather now, but he hasn’t forgotten what he took up arms against when he was a young man. While the weapon has changed (it’s now ballots, not bullets), the struggle has not.

And he notes, quite rightly, that second rounds are not necessary everywhere; right here in Canada, the latest government took much less than 47% of the ballots in the last two elections. Harpo would kill for anything approaching Pepe’s degree of popularity, probably because it would give him carte blanche to ram through something utterly unpopular (such as this) over the loud objections of a very clear majority of Canadians! All that’s holding him back is that he hasn’t got a majority of 50%, much less 50 + 1. And while we’re not a duopoly to the extent that Uruguay for the longest time was, we’re not far from it, either; we’ve got a long-time farce of Liberal vs. Conservative swapping going on, although it’s acrimonious rather than buddy-buddy as in Uruguay. Still, at times it’s hard to tell which is which, and that’s never good.

But one thing we don’t have, which Uruguay does, is that burden of the need for a clear majority in order to form a government. It’s a burden which stacks the deck in favor of established parties, and makes it harder for a leftist coalition like the Frente Amplio (Mujica’s party, or more accurately, parties) to gain a foothold–not that a first-past-the-post system necessarily makes anything easier, as we up here know only too well. Either system clearly favors the oligarchs, and unless a leftist with true mass appeal breaks out in a big way, as in Venezuela and Bolivia, well–we’re stuck.

Meanwhile, in Uruguay, a second round–totally unnecessary, except for keeping up appearances (and tensions) will go down on November 29. It’s practically a foregone conclusion that Pepe Mujica will win, because his opponent is a truly loathsome old oligarch and an apologist for the dictatorship. But it’s not a “clear majority”, so the very farce that Pepe fought against as a young man is perpetuating itself–and inadvertently proving that he was right all along.

Ironically, had he moved further to the left, instead of trying to make a play for the “mushy middle” (which always goes to the conservatives, when all’s said, out of cowardice), he might have gotten the outright majority and then some on the first round, as Chavecito did in Venezuela, ten years ago. Venezuela was deeply embroiled in a long-term crisis, starting in the mid-1980s. Uruguay isn’t there yet. But if the global economic crisis deepens, as I suspect it will, and foreign investments end up sacking it as they have in the past, we may well see a shift at last. And then perhaps Pepe Mujica may have to reconsider his “reformist” tendencies and become a real revolutionary once more. And then we may end up seeing some truly hilarious backpedalling from people like the morons at the Wall Street Urinal, who felt the need to recast Mujica–obviously no neoliberal–in the most capitalist-friendly light possible, just to keep up the artificial dichotomy between the “good” left and the “bad”. Which, if the video below has anything to say, is a farce, too:

Mujica, far from wanting to distance himself from Chavecito, wants to learn more from him. Can you blame the man? Nothing succeeds like success, and Chavecito knows it well. You can bet he’ll be helping Mujica steer a better path after the 29th of next month. And when he does, it will throw a puck in the Wall Street Urinal–and any other media cloaca that burbles happy horseshit about how neoliberalism is poised to make a comeback.

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12 Responses to Uruguay: Pepe Mujica wins, but…

  1. Nolan says:

    More depressing is the fact that 47% of the votes was not enough to annul the amnesty bill which has made it virtually impossible to prosecute those who committed crimes during the military dictatorship. Apparently 47% of Uruguayans wanting to see justice served against those who tortured and killed their countrymen is not enough. Rather shamefully Mujica has distanced himself from the “yes” campaign, seeing no purpose in the fight for justice against those kept him imprisoned.

  2. Oh, CHRIST.
    Does the man WANT to lose? Because I guarantee he will, if it comes down to that. He’d better smarten up and make it a plank in his platform for this coming month–that he’ll introduce a bill in parliament to get rid of that damn law. Otherwise, you-know-who will win…and he’s all for keeping it. We already know he doesn’t believe anyone was killed or tortured, a fact which Mujica himself could dispute from experience if he weren’t trying so hard to woo the assclowns who would never vote for him anyway.
    Lord, save me from ever becoming conservative again in my old age…

  3. Manaat says:

    Were you a Tory once, Bina? (that should inoculate you, one would think)

  4. Well, I did vote for Kim Campbell–once–but only because she was female. I thought it would make a difference. It didn’t.
    It did, however, inoculate me fine!

  5. Anthony says:

    Looks like Uruguay is struck by the play-off curse in 2009 – their football team have to beat Costa Rica to qualify for next years FIFA World Cup, and Pepe have to beat Lacalle in the second round to win the election.
    Let’s hope Uruguay and Pepe emerge victorious. 🙂

  6. Let’s hope, indeed.
    Maybe Mujica should buddy up with Evo, he’s a good soccer player!

  7. ceti_alpha says:

    Mujica does come from an ultra-leftist background which in the last twenty years have made a bee line for the mushy-middle. Principled leftists like Evo or Hugo at least have their background to give them a basis in real life experiences, thus inoculating them from the vagaries of ideological drift.

  8. Yep…and not only that, but he’s also dead wrong about Chavecito. Far from being bureaucratic, the ‘Cito has actually had to create parallel institutions to help implement direct democracy–and sidestep all the crappy, crooked bureaucrats he inherited from the 4th Republic days. Boy, is HE in for a crash course in socialism when he finally takes office…

  9. Anthony says:

    Btw, this was just too ridiculous to pass up: Bordaberry Junior, who will throw in his lot with Luis Lacallous, told El Pais that he was “concerned” that Mujica would have a majority in parliament and executive power in his hands (when he becomes President), and even quoted Thomas Jefferson while bashing Mujica: “The history of democracy is the history of the limitation of power.”
    Wouldn’t Bordaberry know a thing or two about people using power to promote their own agenda – STARTING WITH HIS OWN FATHER, PERHAPS!?
    Have I mentioned yet tonight how much I hate these people…?

  10. You have now… 🙂
    “Limiting power”, eh? Well, the power of the people is the one they fear most, those Blancos and Colorados. I did mention that they were oligarchs. With them, the one hand always washes the other, as my German mom would say. So of course they’re gonna try to stop another pesky socialist, even if he’s a watered-down ex-guerrilla! And of course they’re gonna fail. How could they not, when one of them is the son of the dictator, and the other probably thinks the only thing the dictator did wrong was not kill enough leftists! They must think nobody remembers anything. Ha! There’s a reason why the Frente Amplio won last time, and it’s the same reason why it’s gonna win again.

  11. TUPAMAROS SUCK!!!!! says:

    where do you guys live now? and did ANY of you lived in Uruguay during the dictatorship? I did – and I didn’t like it – and do you know WHY we had a dictatorship?? BECAUSE THE TUPAMAROS WANTED TO TAKE THE COUNTRY!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! where do you people get your facts???? read some REAL URUGUAYAN HISTORY POR FAVOR!!!!

  12. You say you lived there during the dictatorship, and you still come out with this crap? Where do YOU live–LaLa Land? Probably. Where else would people think a dictatorship was necessary to deal with dissenters, and where else would they use a baseball bat to swat a mosquito?
    Dictatorships suck, and their apologists–YOU–are asswipes. Fortunately, you don’t get to write history.

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