Uruguayan voters rejected a constitution proposed by their military rulers that would have given the armed forces a permanent share of governing power with future elected presidents.
With 80 percent of the vote counted, the Interior Ministry today reported a margin of 58 percent against the proposal and 42 percent in favor.
The rejection of the proposed charter will extend indefinitely the direct rule of a military government that seized power in 1973. But civilian political leaders hailed the outcome as a triumph for Uruguay's democratic ideals.
"There is only one winner and that is the people of Uruguay and their faith in democracy," said Colorado Party leader Jorge Battle. "It was won against a government that came to power not be the vote but by force of arms."
Voting in the national referendum, the first since 1971, was mandatory for the 2 million Uruguayans.
The most controversial provision of the proposed charter was the establishment of a national security council, made up of the heads of the three armed forces and the president.
Uruguay was a bastion of democracy in Latin America until the armed forces crushed the Tupamaro guerrilla movement and dissolved the national congress in 1973.