efe-epaSarah Yañez-Richards Montevideo

The Colorado Party's candidate for the Uruguayan presidency told EFE that the stars have aligned for a victory by a coalition of right-wing and centrist parties.

Ernesto Talvi, a 62-year-old economist and university professor who beat out two-time former President Julio Maria Sanguinetti in the primaries, said a coalition with Luis Alberto Lacalle Pou's conservative National Party and Pablo Mieres' center-left Independent Party will be necessary to prevent a fourth consecutive victory by the leftist Broad Front coalition.

"I think the stars have aligned in Uruguay because we have many more commonalities than differences, and that's why this new generation of leaders has the ability to build a common project and offer it to citizens," the politician said in an interview at his party's Montevideo headquarters.

In that regard, the son of a Macedonian father and Cuban mother said he is almost certain that no single individual will emerge victorious in the first round of presidential elections in October and that a runoff will be necessary pitting the ruling party's candidate against an opposition hopeful.

Talvi, who holds a PhD in economics from the University of Chicago, says he is not concerned about the ideological differences among the three parties that would make up this opposition coalition because he believes that Lacalle Pou - despite having more conservative voters - is not a "man of the right," but rather of the center-right.

He said, however, that he is concerned about a number of small emerging parties in the South American country because they could make it more difficult to govern.

"Starting on the first of March (when the new administration takes office for the 2020-2025 period), we'll have to make very important decisions that will require governability. There have to be just a few seated at the table. If not, you'll have an atomized system where weaving an accord becomes impossible because you have eight seated at the table," Talvi said.

The candidate says the traditional parties have much more stability and that is why he decided to seek the presidency 10 months ago as a member of the Colorado Party, a political grouping that garnered just 12.8 percent of the vote in the last general election in 2014 and did not make it to the runoff.

Talvi, whose political mentor was late ex-President Jorge Batlle of the Colorado Party, said that in putting together his political program he was inspired by the successful experiences of other countries.

They include New Zealand's "reform of their state-owned companies and agricultural development and agri-export policies that integrate technology, genetics and ecology."

He also wants to adopt Sweden's system of integrating former inmates into the workforce, France's welfare reform and Chile's fiscal responsibility law and international reinsertion through trade.

Referring to that Andean nation, he said that Chile's governments went out and "conquered the world" over a period of just three decades and that now that nation has customs agreements with 86.5 percent of the global economy, while Uruguay only has agreements with 6.5 percent.

According to Talvi, the "legal nature of Mercosur," a South American trade bloc, is one of the impediments to growth for the small country.

The politician therefore is proposing that Mercosur make the transition from "an ancient and dysfunctional customs union" to "an agile, dynamic and modern free-trade zone that allows member countries to negotiate with third countries."

Talvi said this change can be achieved with the support of Argentina - and would be very feasible if conservative President Mauricio Macri is re-elected - and Paraguay, adding that those three countries would be able to "convince" Brazil.

Although the politician said he was pleased about the free-trade deal that Mercosur reached with the European Union on June 28, he added that that agreement took 20 years to be struck and Uruguay does not have that much time.

Education also will be a key plank of his political platform, according to Talvi, who said he plans to create more than 100 "model public" high schools in marginalized areas surrounding Uruguay's cities.

He said those educational centers would be open from Monday to Saturday from 8 am to 6 pm, offer medical exams and feature teachers specially trained in pedagogical techniques.

"Only 19 of 100 (minors who grow up in marginalized areas) finish their secondary studies," Talvi said, adding that he created a pilot center seven years ago with 100 students, more than 70 of whom earned their high-school diploma. EFE-EPA

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