Uruguay’s election – final week campaign color

We continue our eclectic, non-citizens but informed-residents, coverage of the Uruguayan national elections. Again, from the perspective that as immigrants legally resident in this welcoming nation, we have an obligation to learn how things are done in our new country. Just the same as we expected, when living in the USA as native-born US citizens, that legal immigrants to the USA should do. Learn how the system works. Learn and use, at least to a basic functional extent, the dominant language. Be part of it to the extent you are legally allowed – think about how it impacts you. Learn from your neighbors. Read, watch, listen to the local media in the local language.

In the past few weeks we’ve had some vocal “expats” criticize us for writing about the Uruguay election, as if it were supposed to be none of our business, none of any expat’s business. Sorry, we’re not that kind of “expat” and we’re glad we’re not. What’s more important is we’ve had Uruguayan friends thank us for covering it. Friends telling us that they appreciate how we are presenting some detailed and balanced information of how Uruguay’s representative democratic republic actually works, to the English-speaking expat/immigrant audience. Neighbors happy to get into political discussions with us, or to explain how the mechanism of the vote works. We’re gratified that our amigos and vecinos appreciate our interest and our election coverage, and we feel that you, the readers of our site who are considering moving to Uruguay, in the process, or already living here, need to understand its political environment and process. That’s why we share it with you.

Certainly if you ever want to become fully part of Uruguayan society and culture, you should be aware of its system of governance. Whether or not you plan to get citizenship or just remain as a resident, or even just do the “visa hop” (we don’t recommend that, and for most it’s not even a visa, but it’s disrespectful to the country), you will be living here. Paying taxes indirectly or directly here. Hopefully making some friends here beyond just expat circles. Perhaps employing people here, maybe starting a business here, possibly working in a job here. Learn about your new country. We’re learning, we’ve almost certainly getting some things wrong, but we’re trying to understand, and sharing what we learn.

First, let’s look at many of the colorful campaign banners and booths all over town. In Centro, at the weekly feria, out in front of the big supermarkets, on lampposts and phone poles, and on houses all around town, there are signs of the election almost everywhere in our medium-sized modest beach town of Atlántida.

What is the actual process of casting a ballot here, you may wonder. How does a Uruguayan citizen vote? By putting one of these, or the dozens of other choices, of predefined voting lists, into her envelope and dropping it into the ballot box. These flyers are not just promotional material, as they may seem – they are the actual ballots! You select the list of your choice, make sure not to mark it in any way nor mutilate it, and put it in the envelope. If you are voting on the constitutional amendment to lower the age of criminal responsibility for major crimes from 18 to 16, you add the special “Sí” slip to the envelope. If against, you don’t add it.

El Observador has a simple animated guide for how Uruguayans cast their votes. It’s a Flash presentation and you may need to turn off some adblockers and privacy blockers, if you use them, to get it to run.

We at Uruguay Expat Life / Uruguay For Me hope you’ve enjoyed our news and images of this colorful, hard-fought, but by many countries’ standards, very civil election. It’s not quite over on Sunday, because it is almost certain that neither of the two leading candidates, Frente Amplio once- and perhaps-again President Dr. Tabaré Vásquez, nor Partido Nacional canddate Luís Lacalle Pou, will get a clear majority.

That means a runoff in November – and we’ll be around for that! While also, of course, submitting our Overseas Voter ballots back to our USA voting district for its important “Mid-terms” legislative election – something that Uruguay does not have. It’s everybody, every 5 years, no mid-terms. Not even special elections for vacancies in most cases, because if you look at those pictures of the ballot lists, there are many more names on them than there are seats in the Senate or for that district in Uruguay’s “House”, the Cámara de Diputados. The replacements are already named, in depth.

So after November, as far as Uruguay elections go, it’s “See you in 2019!” When we may even be able to vote – though likely that will be too soon even if we have citizenship by then. Naturalized citizens of Uruguay cannot exercise the full rights and privileges of citizenship (basically voting and jury duty) for the first three years after becoming ciudadanos uruguayos. Though citizenship is possible in 5 years for individuals. or 3 years for married couples / families,  after official arrival on the entry where you applied for residency, which for us was 2012, it can often take a few years longer. We’d need it by this time in 2016 to vote in 2019, and that might be a bit optimistic. But a goal we’re pursuing.

Whatever your country, or countries, and many of you have more than one – We encourage all our readers to be politically aware, informed, and active, in all their countries.

Published by

Mark Mercer

Site co-owner Mark Mercer. AKA Marcos Cristoforo Mercer, AKA the Fuzzy Wanderer. Expat from USA living in Uruguay as of mid-2012, after "test-driving" it for a few months in 2011 and early 2012. Married to Lisamaria, AKA well-known travel and fitness writer Lisa Marie Mercer. Follow Mark on Twitter @mcmxs and his many other sites, which you can find at http://about.me/MarkMercer. I write and engage about many of my other interests, on Google+ at https://google.com/+MarkMercer

8 thoughts on “Uruguay’s election – final week campaign color”

  1. I appreciate the coverage. You are teaching a few of us quite a lot, and we agree with your sharing spirit. Thanks again!

  2. I appreciate the time and thought put into your articles and education of others. As a new member to the community I have found much of the information you have shared to be vital to understanding and adjustment. Keep doing what you do! Peace!

  3. Thank you for sharing your thoughts and this information, Mark! I follow the news here on a daily basis, out of interest and for work, but it is always nice to have an outsider’s take on things and also a relief to know that you represent the expats who are actually interested in the country…our impression after a year in Uruguay is that the expat community – at large – is living on the side of the local society and, if anything, very negative towards local ways and manners. So keep up the good work!

  4. Thanks for the supportive comments, folks! Lisa and I are happy that you enjoy and benefit from our site.

    Writing about how things really are here, also is part of our own learning process. We’re both observational and analytical type people, including influences from our previous professional lives (software development for me, sports-medicine-influenced fitness for her), so getting to the “Oh, that’s how it works!” point is pretty much our baked-in mindsets. Rather than the easier, “It doesn’t work the way I thought – I don’t like it here!” approach.

    Which doesn’t mean there aren’t things to complain about. I think I’ve been pretty vocal about the downsides of the bank BROU, and the ridiculously high cost of electricity from UTE, among them. But just like marrying somebody, moving to a new country means you’re accepting the whole package!

  5. Great and informative explanation, thanks.

    I certainly agree that, when living in a country, it behooves one to communicate with the locals in their own language, and preferably about more than the Pompeian plumbing you’re paying them to make functional. And I share your disdain for expats who make little or no effort to become conversational.

    Couldn’t disagree more, however, about specifying the subject: in the 50 “foreign” countries where I’ve spent some time, five of which I’ve also lived in for a prolonged period, I can’t think of a single instance where my lack of interest in local political theater has hindered or altered my experience (though derisive, amusing anecdotes about inept and corrupt politicians do have universal appeal). If you’re interested in politics, talk about politics. If you’re interested in boats, music, cooking, history, hunting, off-grid living, organic gardening, talk about that. That’s where you’re probably going to find more fulfilling conversation.

    Certainly, before choosing to invest/settle in a place, one should take time to understand the burden of its government. Uruguay has a government as overblown as the United States’, but currently less totalitarian, and more like the famous ombu tree in Recoleta, whose branches grow out so far they require external supports to keep them off the ground. Most Americans I know are here at least partly because they prefer the charming presence of that ombu tree to the presence of militarized police playing soldier on treeless streets lined with spy cameras.

    In Uruguay, the ever-growing government is rarely in your face, but always in your pocket, in its ongoing tilt at the windmill of the Pareto principle. I would welcome, but don’t expect, any meaningful change to that from political theatrics. That said, you do a good job of showing that they’re more interesting here than in the Machiavellian US system, where, beyond local issues, one’s vote is essentially meaningless. In 2019, I will definitely take an interest in voting here, which I abandoned in the US a decade ago.

    BTW, a bit of nit-picking: the date of your application for residence, like everything else from Migración beyond a certificado de llegada documenting when you landed in Uruguay with the intent to live here, is irrelevant to the citizenship process. (Including, I suspect but have not confirmed, official residence.)

    1. Appreciate the thoughtful comments, thanks for reading, and for taking the time to share your thoughts.

      Possible confusion on what you see as the premise, and if it’s due to unclear presentation, mea culpa. I’m not suggesting that talking politics with neighbors is a necessary or important thing to do. Rather, that being aware of your new country’s politics, is an important thing for expats to do – for themselves. I reject the “expats shouldn’t bother with local politics” argument. I don’t intend to argue that “expats must talk about local politics”. I do intend to argue that “Expats should talk with locals and be less like ‘expats’, more like neighbors and like immigrants to the country.” Talking about politics as one of your topics of conversation with neighbors is entirely optional. My only other point regarding Uruguayan neighbors/friends and politics is – It’s never the Uruguayans who are pissed off about expats learning about and talking about Uruguayan politics (if done with some attempt at research and knowledge) – it’s only the “expats” – and a certain type of expat, who gets pissed off. That certain type of expat is heavily overweighted in most online “expat forums” and similar internet venues.

      “In Uruguay, the ever-growing government is rarely in your face, but always in your pocket,” is perhaps accurate, though I don’t see it with as much vehemence as you apparently do, “Unrhyw Ddirgelwch”. Not necessarily knowing who you are, I don’t know your particulars, but I’m guessing perhaps a business owner, land owner, employer of Uruguayan help, or employee of a Uruguayan business. Lisa and I are none of the above (our business is officially in Florida, USA), and the only one I’ve briefly been is the last, an employee of a Uruguayan business. So I’ve been on the receiving side of an easy-to-get IRPF income tax refund that didn’t even require filing a form, just going to Abitab with my cédula, but I haven’t been on the paying-to-BPS, DGI, ANEP social security and income taxation side of it. And probably won’t, though we dance around the idea of starting up a UY business entity for Southern Cross Web one of these days. Maybe. In which case I’m sure I’ll have US-IRS-like and US-local-state-like bureaucracy tales to tell, and hope to get guidance from Uruguayan and expat compañeros on navigating.

      But so far, the only way the UY government was in my pocket was near the end of 2013 when by surprise they put money IN my pocket!

      I don’t know exactly how recently you have been in the USA. But let me assure you from recent experience, including some in 2013 and 2014, that the USA government and its subdivisions most certainly are both “in your face” and “in your pocket”. User fees on so many things that would have been considered public, free, paid by tax dollars, like much of the National Forests and Park Systems, or hyper-inflated fees. Ludicrously punitive fees on travel documents, with added taxes on each segment of travel, “for your security” – on top of all the money from the general fund already paid to fund the Geheimstadtsicherheichtministerium. (Department of Homeland Security – “sounds better in the original German”.) Very high additive or even compounded state, county, municipality sales taxes, plus “mil levies” for school and water districts – and not part of the cost, such as in Uruguay, but on top of the posted price. For far less benefit from that approaching 14-18% state/local taxation than the 22% IVA gets us here in Uruguay. When USA actually has truly universal, truly affordable healthcare, truly universal, truly-broad broadband, free laptops for every child, free higher education, get back to me about how much more the government is “in your pocket” in Uruguay!

      On the nit-picking on citizenship, I appreciate the clarification but it doesn’t seem very clear. If you read the Uruguayan Constitution (and yes, I have) it seems to date from residency, not from arrival for residency. But it also does seem to imply that “intent to live here” which indeed could be independent of both. In which case, the start of our permanent ongoing year-round lease, in Dec 1, 2011, could very logically be the most obviously correct starting date. But I kinda doubt we could go for citizenship in a month when we’re still “en trámite” on residencia! (Mostly due to the back and forth from freelance to employee to freelance, and some document hilarity.) The constitution does say that you must be a legal resident in order to get citizenship, but I think you’re right that there isn’t an exact “clock-starts-now” tie to it.

      So.. perhaps slightly more hope for being able to vote in the 2019 election!

      I did vote, yesterday, back in the USA. Local and state only, being the mid-terms and my US state, Florida, doesn’t have either Senator up for election this year. I agree, the closer to local the race gets, the more it actually matters. Further up you go, the more it’s mostly all the same corporatist/statist types, with just marginal but dramatic-sounding differences. At least, until that country manages to create its own Broad Front. If Astori, Vásquez, and Mujica can all find common ground, I would like to think that US Libertarians, Greens, Constitution Party, and some other so-called “third parties” could do the same – their rather large differences are actually a hell of a lot less than the differences between a Muica and an Astori.

      1. From the Constitución (75, A): “Los hombres y las mujeres … tengan tres años de residencia habitual en la República.” How does the Corte Electoral determine three years of habitual residence? Not the way you’d think. Trust me or not on this, but I’ll repeat: the only documentation from Migración that interested them was proof that I had arrived in Uruguay. From then on, it was my burden to prove I’d been here. No questions about my official residence status at any point that I’m aware of.

        I don’t experience the US government being “in my pocket” because I don’t live there and pay no income tax on my foreign-earned income. I didn’t mean to suggest it’s not a financial predator, but the murderous black-suited thugs tasing people in wheelchairs with impunity attract more of my attention when I look at the United “in your face” States.

        You’ll notice that when you buy an item here, on a handwritten invoice they’ll write the price on the bottom line, then back out the 22% “IVA” above it. In other words, you see an item for UY$100 and you pay UY$100. Most people remain blissfully unaware — as indeed you demonstrated in your comment above — that the government has just been in your pocket for 18% of your purchase price. Of almost everything you buy.

        Unless it’s got a motor, engine, or electronics, in which case your tax is essentially 100%, meaning 50% of your purchase price goes straight to the government. You see a price tag of USD 1200 on that shiny motorbike, and you save up your USD 1200 and buy it. No added sales tax! But you have basically just paid the government USD 600 for the privilege of buying a motorbike with an intrinsic value of USD 600. Government not in your pocket?

        Makes me feel a little less sorry for people in Tennessee, with the highest state sales tax in the US: 9.45%.

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