The success of the governing coalition of center and left parties in Uruguay has made Frente Amplio a best practice example for innovative policy approaches worldwide.
1) What are the key factors in making a center left coalition work and what could other parties learn from this successful experiment?
Yerú Pardiñas, Secretary General of the Socialist Party of Uruguay: The success is due to multiple reasons. It would be a very schematic and simplistic reasoning to explain the continuous strength and rise of the FA among the popular movement and the citizens by just a few factors.
Nevertheless we understand that there are some elements of special importance including the following: Firstly, the decision to reach a political agreement which ensures that the different sectors which are part of this agreement view the common goals as the fundamental reason for their political existence and struggle. It is the united effort of the people to build an alternative society. This goal leads us to another important factor which is the continuous development of a single governmental program supported by all sectors. Secondly, there was an agreement to implement a form of participation which includes the movement and especially the representation and the political framework for action of those members who do not strongly identify themselves with a member party or do not actively participate in a party. Thirdly, it was the development of a kind of leadership which transcends beyond the FA and has been recognized by the citizens. This allowed us to bring many political issues forward and gain approval among the citizenry (e.g. Tabaré Vázquez, Pepe Mujica, Danilo Astori and many others who have a similar role in different territories). Finally, it was a precise interpretation of the demands and wishes of the popular sectors of the country which found their expression in relevant political proposals (e.g. the protection of public enterprises, a constitutional reform to adjust retirement and pensions, the protection of human rights and others).
2) What are the three most important political achievements of Frente Amplio since 2005?
Yerú Pardiñas: To have overcome the social and economic crises the country was immersed in: 1) steady increase of the GDP, with an average annual economic growth of 4% during 9 years in government; 2) at the same time improvement of the wealth and income distribution, rise of the level of wages, retirement plans and pensions, as well as universal access to education and health care; 3) extension of rights and social protection, wage councils, occupational health policy, inclusion of pensioners into the National Health System, extended coverage of family aid, transport subsidies for secondary school students, same-sex marriage, youth employment act.
3) Uruguay made global headlines when deciding to legalize the limited trade of Marihuana in the course of 2014. The government will be in charge of regulating and controlling the Marihuana market. The purchase of up to 40 grams of Marihuana at pharmacies will be legalized. Private rearing of up to six plants and up to 99 plants in clubs of 15 to 45 members will be allowed, while minors and foreigners are exempt from these regulations. What are your experiences and perspectives as to moving towards implementation of the new legislation in the first six months of the year, especially with regard to the issue of security and the fight against drug cartels?
Yerú Pardiñas: In this first phase we have been working on the implementing regulation as the tool to put the law into practice. This task was done as a common project including the executive power, the health and social development authorities, the Ministries for Agriculture, Education and the Interior, the economic and budgetary agencies under the leadership of the National Drug Agency, with a special focus on combating addiction and drug trafficking. At this moment the accreditation and legalization of the Member Clubs has started with a register at the Ministry for Education and Culture’s legal personality department.
The implementation of the law will allow to clearly define the strategic actions with regards to those sectors of the population which might become potential law-breakers under the effect of addiction, generating conflicts and insecurity. By defining a “legal and controlled” structure there will be a clear distinction of what is illegal action and trafficking which is what we will have to continue to fight and dismantle.
4) There will be around 250,000 new voters in the elections of 26 October 2014. How is the PS planning to attract their attention? What role do the social media play in involving young people in politics?
Yerú Pardiñas: The young people are a big asset for the left and therefore for the proposals of our Socialist Party. Through our specific political work at our youth organization, the Juventud Socialista de Uruguay (JSU) with policies to promote inclusion, motivation, integration of and the debate with young people the Party also strives to bring young citizens on board and to ensure that they use their civic right to vote for socialism and the FA. The inclusion of issues such as studies, work, the rights agenda, the constitutional reform proposal of reducing the age of criminal liability (bringing down the criminal offense age to 16 years), are some of the topics included in our discussions, campaign materials and general communications of the party ahead of the upcoming national elections.
Communication through all available means is a strategy we need to follow, although the communication via the social media is especially relevant. Therefore, the Party and the JSU are developing a strong communication through the internet, facebook, twitter and other social networks. The new information and communication technologies are constantly used and further developed with the aim of communicating events, political positions, exchanges of ideas, mobilizations, demands and proposals.