THOUGH the months of television ads, billboards and pamphleteers would seem to indicate otherwise, the 2006 presidential campaign officially began Saturday in a solemn ceremony held at the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) in downtown San José.President Abel Pacheco, Public Security Minister Rogelio Ramos and TSE President Oscar Fonseca, along with many other ministers, legislators and candidates, attended the event. Notable in his absence was Oscar Arias, presidential candidate for the National Liberation Party (PLN) and current leader in the polls.In addition to formalizing the start of the campaign, which will culminate in the national elections held in February 2006, the ceremony featured speeches by both Pacheco and Fonseca.Fonseca called upon the Costa Rican public to turn out and vote, saying that abstention “damages democracy.“Abstention… is a form of protest. But the truth is that abstention does not resolve any of the problems it is intended to. On the contrary, it can make them worse,” Fonseca said, adding that low voter turnout in the last elections, held in 2002, should draw the attention of this year’s contenders to what the public really wants.“The people demand neither miracles nor extraordinary heroic acts – only work, a lot of work; honesty, a lot of honesty; …to always tell the truth, as hard or harsh as it may be, and to act consequently. There is no other way,” Fonseca said.The campaign kicks off without any reform of the campaign finance system that allowed various irregularities during the 2002 elections. Primarily because of differences over how much campaign financing the government should provide (TT, Sept. 30), a bill to reform campaign finance remains stuck in the Legislative Assembly.