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LatinNews Daily - 20 October 2021

URUGUAY: LUC referendum looking increasingly likely

On 19 October the opposition-aligned Comisión Nacional por el Sí announced that Uruguay’s electoral court had validated around 450,000 out of the nearly 800,000 signatures submitted in support of a referendum on whether or not to repeal 135 articles contained in the Ley de Urgente Consideración (LUC) omnibus reform.

Analysis:

The news means that the referendum is now almost certain to go ahead, most probably in March next year. To trigger the referendum the left-wing opposition coalition Frente Amplio (FA) needs to gather valid signatures equivalent to 25% of the electoral register, or 671,544 citizens. So far just under 500,000 signatures have been examined by the electoral court, with an 8.03% rejection rate. If a similar rejection rate is applied to the remaining signatures, it is clear that the required threshold will be easily met.

  • The LUC was presented to congress by President Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou shortly after he took office in March 2020. The law has a total of 476 articles which include, inter alia, amending the penal code, toughening sentences for crime, reforming education, and increasing the role of the private sector. It was approved in July last year.
  • The FA, the trade union movement, and other lobby groups want to use the referendum to repeal 135 articles of the LUC. The Comisión por el Sí said it would launch its referendum campaign on 23 October with a music concert.
  • The Sí campaign says that the 135 articles it objects to represent a “structural reform” of Uruguayan society, likely to cause “more inequality, poverty, exclusion, falling income for workers and pensioners, and increasing concentration of power and wealth”.
  • In contrast, the centre-right Lacalle Pou administration is arguing that the law consists of necessary reforms, all of which were clearly promised during the election campaign.

Looking Ahead: Recent opinion polls suggest 44% of respondents favour a ‘no’ vote, 34% will vote ‘yes’ and 22% remain undecided. The electoral tribunal has yet to formally approve a referendum, or to set a date, but it is widely expected to be fixed for March 2022.