MONTEVIDEO, Uruguay (AP) — Uruguay's former President Tabare Vazquez says he's ready to run again.
The 73-year-old oncologist invited leaders of the governing, left-leaning Broad Front coalition to his home Wednesday night to tell them what they had been hoping to hear — that he's available as a candidate to succeed President Jose Mujica in next year's election.
"He told us, 'I want to tell you that if the Broad Front asks, I'll agree to be a candidate,'" legislator Julio Bango, who attended the meeting, told The Associated Press.
"He told us that he had thought about it a lot and that he had consulted with this family, and that this was a difficult decision. It was a very emotional moment," Bango said.
Vazquez himself wasn't talking much Thursday. Staying mum about his plans has been part of his political strategy.
But Mujica quickly praised his fellow Broad Front member on TV and radio, calling Vazquez a wise and trusted leader for the country, which bars consecutive presidential terms but allows presidents to run again after being out of office.
Vazquez represents "security, stability, no crazy passions, adventures or playing the lottery," Mujica said. "He knows he'll have to sacrifice his tranquility, but the political forces and his comrades believe they need him."
While Vazquez opposed legalized abortion when he was president in 2005-10, he has said he would not try to overturn the current government's measures that legalized it. He also says he would support marijuana legalization, which passed the House of Deputies last week and is expected to easily win approval in the Senate.
The Broad Front won't formally settle on a candidate for the October 2014 election until its primary next June. But Vazquez appears to be a heavy favorite, with 81 percent support among coalition voters, according to a poll last month by the Equipos Mori firm.
Mujica had 80 percent support, while his vice president, Daniel Astori, had 61 percent.
The Broad Front leads other parties and coalitions with 43 percent of the electorate, compared to 25 percent for the centrist National Party, 14 percent for the rightist Colorado Party and 2 percent for the center-left Independent Party, the poll said. The nationwide poll of 1,000 likely voters had an error margin of plus or minus three percentage points.