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Uruguay improved its levels of universalism in the last fifteen years. This improvement is due to a prolonged process of transformation in Uruguayan politics from competitive particularism to an open access regime. We claim that the change in the way that parties compete for votes - from clientelistic to programmatic strategy – is the cause of this transformation. In order to provide descriptive evidence of the main features of this governance regime transformation, this paper traces the process of institutional reforms and elite behavioral changes that lead to that outcome, and proposes an analytic framework to explain it.