This paper describes and analyzes the transformation of Uruguayan governance institutions with particular regard to corruption and particularism. Uruguay substantively 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 – since 1985 is the cause of this transformation. An economic and fiscal crisis during the sixties weakened the clientelistic strategy of the traditional parties and enabled the entrance of a new party that built their electoral support based on programmatic claims instead of the distribution of clientelism. In that context, clientelism became nor fiscally sustainable neither electorally effective. The traditional parties –after an authoritarian period- had to adapt to programmatic competition and leave aside clientelism. Institutional transformations are the consequences of the strategies that parties took for electoral survival and they are functional to the new political equilibrium and help to maintain it. This paper traces the process of institutional reforms and elite behavioral changes that lead to that outcome. Data from a variety of sources is used- ranging from official figures and elite interviews, to public opinion and elite surveys or media reports – to provide descriptive evidence of the main features of this governance regime transformation, and proposes an analytic framework to explain it.