San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Costa Rica's ruling party loses control of Congress

After a contentious political battle, opposition party members elected candidate Juan Carlos Mendoza as the new Legislative Assembly president Monday at 5:35 pm. The move ended the political crisis that paralyzed Congress after a polemic election last Sunday.

This is the first time the head of the legislative does not belong to the ruling party since 1966. The ruling National Liberation Party (PLN) announced that none of its candidates would run for the position, in order to establish what they called a “constitutional disruption”

On Sunday, PLN members sparked chaos inside the Legislative Assembly after naming their own candidate, Luis Gerardo Villanueva, as the president of Congress, despite not having enough lawmakers available for a quorum. Only 26 out of 57 lawmakers were in session. Two hours later, Villanueva resigned from the position, and opposing legislators declined to elect a new governing body. The move left Costa Rica’s Congress without a leader.

“Though we legitimately won the election, we can not tolerate a constitutional chaos,” said Viviana Martín, head of PLN legislative faction. “We understand that negotiation means to give up on some things.”

An hour and a half later, Mendoza was sworn in as the new leader of Congress to the applause of his supporters.

“Today, we have demonstrated an example of political dialogue and negotiation,” said Mendoza. “This alliance was born out of an urgent need to recover the republican essence of the division of powers.”

Mendoza pledged to improve communication among the assembly and the people, and promised more respectful treatment of fellow Congress members following last weekend’s meltdown.

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