Polls open in Uruguay as voters chose Mujica successor

Polls opened in Uruguay Sunday to elect a successor to folksy iconoclast President Jose Mujica, who remains popular but cannot stand for re-election under term limits.

Polling began at 8:00 am (1000 GMT) with Mujica looking to hand power back to his predecessor, cancer doctor Tabare Vazquez of the Broad Front, who needs 50 percent plus one vote to avoid a runoff with Luis Lacalle Pou of the National Party or Pedro Bordaberry, the son of a former dictator who is running on the Colorado ticket.

A total of 2.6 million Uruguayans are eligible to vote in the mandatory presidential and general election and will turn out across nearly 6,950 polling stations.

Surrounded by supporters, Mujica -- famous for legalizing marijuana sales, living in a run-down house and donating most of his salary to charity -- was one of the first to vote in his Cerro neighborhood west of Montevideo. He arrived in an old Volkswagen, accompanied by his wife, Senator Lucia Topolansky.

Mujica is standing behind Vazquez, whose victory in 2004 represented a historic break with 174 years of dominance by the South American country's two traditional parties, the "Colorados" (Reds) and "Blancos" (Whites, now officially called the National Party).

But after 10 years in office, the leftist Broad Front (FA) has lost some of its shine as the new kid on the block and is fending off vigorous challenges from the Blancos and Colorados, which both tend to the center-right.