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.