Tabaré’s political career kick-started when he served as Montevideo's Mayor from 1990-95, as a member of the 'Frente Amplio' socialist-leftist political party. During the same decade he contested in the presidential elections twice, but lost out on both occasions.
Vázquez contested in the 2004 elections, winning with almost 51% votes, and was sworn in early the following year. With this historic win, he became the first Socialist-Leftist Uruguayan President who did not belong to any of the major political parties of the nation.
A majority of the parliamentary members were from the new President's left-wing coalition party, the 'Frente Amplio'. He was also supported by the Head of State of Brazil, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, and thus did not face too many hurdles as the newly elected leader of Uruguay.
Tabaré introduced certain new economic reforms in the country after assuming his office. One of the most important policies was the 'Impuesto a la Renta de las Personas Fisica', or the 'I.R.P.F. Reform' ('Income Tax on Natural Persons').
The reform replaced tax slabs with a uniform rate of personal income tax, and reduced value added tax. It was a controversial reform since it meant that certain groups of citizens would have to pay more taxes. Though it was also quite unlike Tabaré's Finance Minister Danilo Astori's careful economic policies, it met with huge success.
The President's term was marked by a distinct ground of social equality and justice. Vázquez used $100 million in a contingency plan titled 'Plan de Atención Nacional a la Emergencia Social' ('PANES'), for meeting the basic needs of the citizens for the next two years.
'PANES', which introduced new food and health programmes, and was run by Marina Arismendi, Minister of Social Development, with the goal of eradicating poverty and hunger, was initially criticised. However, it was similar to Brazil's emergency plan 'Fome Zero', and was considered to be a major step in bringing about social development.
In November 2005, he formed a committee of experts to investigate the disappearance and murder of innumerable leftists that had occurred during the final military dictatorship. His endeavour was successful, and several corpses were discovered in the plausible sites.
The same year, the Parliament decided to pass a law known as 'Ley de Salud Sexual y Reproductiva', after receiving a majority of votes for its approval, from the 'Frente Amplio' members. The law aimed at reversing an old rule against abortion, and legalizing the medical procedure in Uruguay. However, despite majority approval, the President vetoed the decision to legalize abortion in the country.
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One of the challenges that Tabaré faced during his term, was the dispute with the government of Argentina, where the latter claimed that Uruguayan pulp factories are polluting the Uruguay River.
Vázquez became the first Uruguayan President to travel to nations like South Korea and New Zealand, thus promoting foreign relations. He is also known for having maintained amicable relationships with the US, despite refusing to sign the 'Free Trade Area of the Americas' pact initiated by former US President George Bush.
The President has often been involved in political controversies, including the time when, in 2007, a Uruguayan Navy ship was found carrying Iranian weapons. This occurred at a time when the United Nations was promoting global peace by condemning the trade of ammunitions.
Tabaré attended several important events in Cuba, including a conference with Cuban President Raúl Castro, in June 2008. The same year, he gave his resignation as the leader of his party, because of protest over his refusal to pass the abortion law.
After his presidency ended, Tabaré announced his decision to contest the 2014 elections. He succeeded José Mujica and was sworn in as President for a second time in March the following year.