Politics of Uruguay
Coat of arms of Uruguay.svg
Polity typeUnitary presidential constitutional republic
ConstitutionConstitution of Uruguay
Legislative branch
NameGeneral Assembly
Meeting placeLegislative Palace of Uruguay
Upper house
Presiding officerBeatriz Argimón, Vice President of Uruguay & President of the Senate
Lower house
NameChamber of Representatives
Presiding officerAlfredo Fratti
Executive branch
Head of State and Government
CurrentlyLuis Alberto Lacalle Pou
Current cabinetCabinet of Uruguay
HeadquartersExecutive Tower
Judicial branch
NameJudiciary of Uruguay
Supreme Court
Chief judgeJohn Pérez Brignani

The politics of Uruguay abide by a presidential representative democratic republic, under which the President of Uruguay is both the head of state and the head of government, as well as a multiform party system. The president exercises executive power and legislative power and is vested in the two chambers of the General Assembly of Uruguay. The Judiciary is independent from the executive and legislature.

The Colorado and National parties have been locked in a power struggle, with the predominance of the Colorado party throughout most of Uruguay's history. The 2004 election, however, brought the Encuentro Progresista-Frente Amplio-Nueva Mayoría, a coalition of socialists, former Tupamaros, communists, social democrats, and Christian Democrats among others to power with majorities in both houses of parliament. A majority vote elected President Tabaré Vázquez.

In 2009, the Broad Front once again won the elections with a plurality of the votes. A presidential runoff was triggered because their candidate, José Mujica, received only 47.96 percent of the vote. The Broad Front's candidate beat former president Luis Alberto Lacalle Herrera of the Nacional Party in the second round of voting. In addition to the presidency, the Broad Front won a simple majority in the Uruguayan Senate and Chamber of Representatives.[1] In 2014, former president Tabaré Vázquez retook power after defeating, in a second round, the candidate of the National Party, Luis Lacalle Pou, who would be the winner of the 2019 election, surpassing the socialist Daniel Martínez with 50.79 to 49.2 percent of the vote.[2]


Until 1919, and from 1934 to 1952, Uruguay's political system, based on the 1830 Constitution, was presidential with a strong executive power, similar to that of the United States (but centralized and not federal). It was also characterized by the rivalry between the two traditional parties, the Colorado Party, liberal, and the Blanco Party (or National Party), conservative. Historically, the whites represented the interests of rural property, the Church and the military hierarchy, while colorados were supported by urban movable property and reformist intellectuals.

In the 19th century, the country had similar characteristics to other Latin American countries: caudillism, civil wars and permanent instability (40 revolts between 1830 and 1903), foreign capitalism's control of important sectors of the economy, high percentage of illiterate people (more than half the population in 1900), land oligarchy, etc. Yet Montevideo became a refuge for Argentine exiles fleeing the dictatorship of Juan Manuel de Rosas and maintained a reputation as a welcoming place for ideas of "advanced" political and social protest. In 1842, the newspaper Le Messager devoted a special issue to the memory of Charles Fourier. During the Great War (1843-1852), Garibaldi's red shirts fought in Montevideo even against Rosas' attacking forces. In 1875, workers founded an Internationale.

At the beginning of the 20th century, Uruguay became the most politically and socially advanced state on the continent. The liberal José Batlle y Ordóñez (in power between 1903 and 1907, then between 1911 and 1915) was the main architect of this transformation; freedom of expression and the press was affirmed, as well as that of suffrage. A system of proportional representation is adopted to allow for the representation of minorities. It also calls for the abolition of the death penalty, the fight against administrative corruption and the introduction of secularism and women's right to vote.

On the economic level, he stated that "industry must not be allowed to destroy human beings, but that on the contrary the State must regulate it in order to make the lives of the masses happier." It thus undertakes an economic policy of a dirigiste nature and nationalizes many sectors of the economy (railways, telephone, electricity, etc.). The "batllism" also takes the form of social measures: institutionalization of free and compulsory primary education, support for trade unions and recognition of the right to strike, maternity leave, an eight-hour day, etc. All this legislation, which was well advanced at the time, made Uruguay a progressive social democracy.[3]


Main article: Constitution of Uruguay

Uruguay adopted its first constitution in 1830, following the conclusion of a three-year war in which Argentina and Uruguay fought as a regional federation: the United Provinces of the Río de la Plata. Sponsored by the United Kingdom, the 1828 Treaty of Montevideo built the foundations for a Uruguayan state and constitution. A constitution proposed under the military dictatorship government was rejected by a referendum in 1980.

Executive Tower, seats the executive power.

Executive branch

See also: List of Presidents of Uruguay and List of Ministries of Uruguay

Uruguay's Constitution of 1967 created a strong presidency, subject to legislative and judicial balance. Many of these provisions were suspended in 1973 but reestablished in 1985. The president, who is both the head of state and the head of government, is elected by popular vote for a five-year term, with the vice president elected on the same ticket. The President must act together with the Council of Ministers, which comprises cabinet ministers, appointed by the president. Thirteen ministers head various executive departments. The ministers can be removed by the General Assembly by a majority vote.

The Constitution amendment establishes the requirements for becoming President. Article 151 establishes that the President must be a natural-born citizen of the country, or have been born to an Uruguayan citizen if born abroad. The President must also be at least 35 years old and be registered in the National Civic Registry.[4] The current president since 1 March 2020 is Luis Lacalle Pou, the son of the 36th president, Luis Alberto Lacalle.

Legislative branch

Legislative Palace, seat of the General Assembly of Uruguay.

The General Assembly (Asamblea General) has two chambers. The Chamber of Representatives (Cámara de Representantes) has 99 members, elected for a five-year term by proportional representation with at least two members per department. The Chamber of Senators (Cámara de Senadores) has 31 members; 30 members are elected for a five-year term by proportional representation and the Vice-president who presides over it.

Judicial branch

Palacio Piria, seats the judiciary.
Palacio Piria, seats the judiciary.

The Judiciary of Uruguay is headed by the Supreme Court of Justice, whose members are appointed by the General Assembly through a two-thirds majority and whose terms last ten years. The Supreme Court of Justice is the last instance of appeal and is also in charge of judging the constitutionality of the laws. The judiciary is also made up of Courts of Appeals, Legal Courts and Peace Courts.

Direct democracy

The Uruguayan political system allows citizens to use direct democracy mechanisms to directly take political decisions on the current legal system without intermediaries. These mechanisms are the referendums to repeal recently approved laws, plebiscites to propose changes to the Constitution and the power of citizens to drive popular initiatives such as to propose referendums, to propose law drafts to the Parliament, to reform the Constitution and to deal with departmental matters.[5]

Political parties and elections

For other political parties, see List of political parties in Uruguay. An overview on elections and election results is included in Elections in Uruguay.

Main article: 2019 Uruguayan general election

Uruguay Chambre des représentants 2019.svg
Uruguay Sénat 2019.svg
Party Presidential candidate First round Second round Seats
Votes % Votes % Chamber +/– Senate +/–
Broad Front Daniel Martínez 949,376 39.01 1,152,271 47.36 42 –8 13 –2
National Party Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou 696,452 28.62 1,189,313 48.88 30 –2 10 0
Colorado Party Ernesto Talvi 300,177 12.32 13 0 4 0
Open Cabildo Guido Manini Ríos 268,736 11.04 11 New 3 New
Partido Ecologista Radical Intransigente César Vega 33,461 1.38 1 +1 0 0
Party of the Folk Edgardo Novick 26,313 1.08 1 +1 0 0
Independent Party Pablo Mieres 23,580 0.97 1 –2 0 –1
Popular Unity Gonzalo Abella 19,728 0.81 0 –1 0 0
Green Animalist Party Gustavo Salle 19,392 0.80 0 New 0 New
Digital Party Daniel Goldman 6,363 0.26 0 New 0 New
Workers' Party Rafael Fernández 1,387 0.06 0 0 0 0
Invalid/blank votes 88,399 3.63 91,612 3.77
Total 2,433,364 100 2,433,196 100 99 0 30 0
Registered voters/turnout 2,699,978 90.12 2,699,980 90.12
Source: Corte Electoral (First round); Corte Electoral (Second round)

International organization participation

Uruguay or Uruguayan organizations participate in the following international organizations:


  1. ^ "Facultad de Ciencias Sociales". 2014-07-14. Archived from the original on 2014-07-14. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  2. ^ "SEGUNDA ELECCION 2019". 2019-12-21. Archived from the original on 2019-12-21. Retrieved 2020-11-24.
  3. ^ Latin America in the 20th century: 1889-1929, 1991, p. 186-191
  4. ^ "Constitución de la República Oriental del Uruguay". www.impo.com.uy. Retrieved 2020-05-01.
  5. ^ González Rissoto, Rodolfo (2008b). "La democracia directa en Uruguay" (PDF). Revista de Derecho Electoral (in Spanish). Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones (6). ISSN 1659-2069.