Economy and Finance Minister Danilo Astori will step down on September 15, and return to the Senate with an eye to becoming the ruling Frente Amplio (FA) coalition candidate for presidential elections late next year.
The government’s approval rating is extremely positive, and charismatic incumbent President Tabare Vazquez (who favours Astori’s bid) has even higher ratings still. However, Vazquez faces resistance to his efforts to consolidate an Astori candidacy – despite the latter’s success at managing Ururuay’s economy, which has rebounded since its Argentina-induced downturn of 2002. The left wing of the coalition is seeking to push Senator Jose Mujica as the candidate instead, hoping for more dynamic social policies than Astori was willing to countenance. Many more within the FA would prefer Vasquez to stand for another term, though this would require amending the constitution – something Vasquez has steadfastly refused to consider.
The electoral cycle will begin on June 28 2009, with open and simultaneous primaries that formally determine the candidates for each party (though the FA will settle on its pick by December this year). On October 25, general elections will be held for president and the full Congress, with a run-off in November if the leading candidate fails to gain an absolute majority. Even with inflationary pressures mounting the FA ought to win, barring a large-scale economic upset. However, if Vazquez imposes Astori on his party the price he pays might be a serious internal split -- and the FA, in turn, could find itself enjoying only one term in the presidency.