Who is Tabaré Vázquez?

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Sunday, November 30, 2014

The winner of Uruguay's presidential runoff on Sunday, 74-year old Tabaré Vázquez of the ruling leftist Frente Amplio coalition, was also president from 2005-10.

Presidents in Uruguay cannot, by law, serve two consecutive terms.

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After his first period Vázquez handed over power to the country's maverick President José (Pepe) Mujica – a former leftist guerrilla known for his highly Spartan lifestyle.

This extended Frente Amplio's continuous rule to 10 years.

Vázquez had made two failed attempts before becoming president in 2005, but these helped him become a well-known political figure and the leader of the left. He had also been a popular mayor of capital Montevideo

Vázquez, who is a doctor by profession, made history when he finally won the presidency because it broke the long hegemony of the country's two traditional parties (Nacional and Colorado) and made Frente Amplio the ruling party for the first time.

The election of Vázquez was also part of a regional trend in Latin America with several countries now being governed by leftist leaders.

Vázquez is known to be one of Latin America's pragmatic leftist leaders – much like former Brazilian President Lula da Silva – who believe that a focus on economic growth and foreign investment can be combined with poverty reduction and greater income equality through generous social programs.

This approach has served Uruguay very well during the years under the Frente Amplio and it has been hailed internationally as an example of a developing country that has achieved both strong growth and lower poverty.

Uruguay's GDP expanded at an average annual rate of 5.5% between 2006 and 2013, which was higher than the regional average for those years

The country's poverty rate decreased to 11.5% last year from 39.9% in 2004, according to the World Bank. And extreme poverty was reduced to 0.5% in 2013 from 4.7% in 2004.

Vázquez, who is a doctor by profession, ran on a continuity of this model that has benefited many Uruguayans and this made it very difficult for conservative rival Luis Lacalle Pou (a lawyer, aged 41) to offer an "alternative" model.

Being in good health, Vázquez's age never became a major issue in this year's election.

In Vázquez, foreign investors find a leader who is convinced that investment from abroad is a key factor for his country's future economic and social development.

Vázquez, who won the first round of voting on October 26, will take office on March 1, 2015.