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Uruguay heads to the polls in run-off vote; tilt to the right likely

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By Reuters
Uruguay heads to the polls in run-off vote; tilt to the right likely
People stand in line to cast their vote in El Cerro, Montevideo, Uruguay November 24, 2019. REUTERS/Mariana Greif   -   Copyright  MARIANA GREIF(Reuters)

By Fabian Werner

MONTEVIDEO (Reuters) – Uruguayans headed to the polls on Sunday to elect a new president in a second round run-off vote likely to shift the South American nation back towards the right after around 15 years of liberal rule.

Luis Lacalle Pou, a conservative lawyer whose father is a former president, is favorite to topple the long-standing coalition that has led the farm-driven economy through a period of stability and relative, though recently cooling, growth.

Some 2.7 million Uruguayan voters will choose between Lacalle Pou of the center-right National Party and Daniel Martínez of the ruling Broad Front party. Polls close at 7.30pm local time (2230 GMT).

The first results will come in around an hour later.

As pre-election campaigns closed last week Lacalle Pou, a 46-year-old, had struck a confident tone, saying the South American country was demanding change. Pre-election polls show him beating Martinez by a margin of 6-8 points.

“It’s the people… saying ‘I want to shake up the government’s drowsiness and change it,’” said Lacalle Pou, who became the front-runner after striking deals with a string of allies following an October first round.

Martinez, a 62-year-old former Montevideo mayor, has said the five-party coalition against him is simply an attempt to dislodge the liberal government that has overseen continuous growth, though seen a recent slowdown.

He has also warned about “fundamentalist” policies taking Uruguay sharply to the right, “ending up like in Argentina or Brazil.”

Amid wider regional unrest in Bolivia and Chile, Uruguay remains stable, but a slowing economy saw growth of just 0.1% in the second quarter of the year.

Unemployment has also edged up to 9.2% versus a year earlier, while inflation this year so far has been 8.36%.

(Reporting by Fabian Werner; Writing by Adam Jourdan; Editing by Mark Potter)