San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Officials Delay Electronic Voting Program

_ After waiting a month for official election results, some Costa Ricans may be eager for the instant gratification of an electronic voting system. But they will have to wait at least four more years before such a system is in place here. The TSE has discarded the idea of a pilot electronic voting program during the Dec. 1 mayoral elections because of limited planning time, La Nación reported. Furthermore, machines for the voting would be borrowed from Brazil, but that country also has elections planned for the end of the year.

 The future for the Central American Free-Trade Agreement with the United States (CAFTA) became a little more secure late last week, after votes were tallied for legislators representing the province of San José. Preliminary counts had PAC receiving six legislators in San José, but after the manual recount, the party ended up with only five, with the other going to the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), the daily La Nación reported. Although the remainder of the manual recount could produce more changes, as it stands CAFTA will likely have the support of 38 legislators – a two-thirds majority.

 While Citizen Action Party (PAC) presidential candidate Ottón Solís was planning his concession speech last week, one of his party’s legislators told the daily Al Día if she were Solís, she wouldn’t recognize the victory of National Liberation Party (PLN) candidate Oscar Arias. Legislator Marta Zamora said Solís didn’t lose, and adding that the elections were too shady and the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) didn’t appropriately address the inconsistencies. Solís qualified the comments as the opinions of Zamora.

 Presidential candidate Antonio Alvarez Desanti, of the Union for Change (UPC), said that he feels the most sadness for the party’s legislative candidates and volunteers, whose hard work produced little results – no legislators were elected and Alvarez received less than 3% of the vote. The candidate told La Nación the reason his party fared so poorly was the polarization surrounding Arias. Alvarez confirmed that he will be a candidate again in 2010, but would not say with which party. He said many people are asking him to return to Liberation, but it is too early to decide.

_ Although no UPC legislators were elected and Alvarez didn’t receive 4% of the presidential votes – requirements to receive part of the government contribution for political parties – the former presidential candidate claims his party has a right to part of the contribution. Bonds are often admitted by political parties to finance their campaigns, and are repaid with the state contribution – which is distributed among parties based on the support received in the election. Alvarez said his banana companies bought the party’s debt before the elections, assuming the final risk. Although UPC doesn’t meet any of the normal qualifications to receive the contribution, Alvarez said they have a legal argument to be reimbursed ¢360 million ($72,000).

 Once TSE employees have finished counting the millions of ballots used Feb. 5, they will become napkins, paper towels and toilet paper. The 7.7 million ballots printed for the election of President, legislators and municipal council members will be recycled in approximately one year, after they have been saved for a respectable time to guard against any accusations regarding the elections, said Tribunal magistrate Luis Antonio Sobrado.

 President Abel Pacheco headed to Panama Wednesday to participate in a meeting with the Presidents of the Central American Integration System (SICA). The main topic of discussion was expected to be the construction of an oil refinery by Mexico in one of the countries. After the meeting, Pacheco will head to Chile to participate in tomorrow’s swearing-in ceremony of new Chilean President Michelle Bachelet.

_ Arias met Wednesday with famed Argentinean- born evangelical preacher Luis Palau, whose face has been plastered all over buses, billboards and newspapers announcing his festival here today and tomorrow. The festival, in Parque de la Paz in southern San José, includes performances of Latin American pop singers Yuri, from Mexico, and José Luis (El Puma) Rodríguez, from Venezuela.


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