Elections 2014

Luis Guillermo Solís and Johnny Araya head to April 6 runoff after close Costa Rica vote

Center-left presidential candidate Luis Guillermo Solís will battle ruling party candidate Johnny Araya in a runoff on April 6 after Solís shocked many in this small Central American country by taking first place in preliminary results released late Sunday night.

Solís, a 55-year-old historian and candidate from the Citizen Action Party, had placed only as high as third and fourth places in national polling. But he captured 30.8 percent of Sunday’s vote, overtaking Araya’s 29.6 percent, with nearly 80 percent of total votes counted, according to the country’s Supreme Elections Tribunal.

“We will govern for Costa Rica. Not one step backward, only forward,” Solís told a euphoric crowd of supporters at a post-vote rally in eastern San José. “We’re going to win, because we are a people who decided to change.”

Thousands of supporters waving the party’s red and yellow banners shouted in response to Solís’ fiery come-from-behind speech.

Just minutes before, Araya, the 56-year-old former mayor of San José from the ruling National Liberation Party, recognized his campaign had come up short after earlier promising to capture one million votes – which would have put him over the 40 percent of votes needed to avoid a runoff. Araya didn’t even capture half that number.

National Liberation Party candidate Johnny Araya delivers an election night speech after placing second behind Citizen Action Party candidate Luis Guillermo Solís. The two will face each other in an April runoff.

Alberto Font/The Tico Times

Most polls in Costa Rica had predicted that Araya’s main challenger would be leftist candidate José María Villalta of the Broad Front Party. But with only 17 percent of the votes, Villalta came in a distant third.

“The electoral results have left no doubt that we still haven’t given enough clear signals to the Costa Rican people that we want responsible change in Costa Rica,” Araya said. The former mayor alluded to the difficulty his campaign has faced in separating the candidate from the current administration of President Laura Chinchilla, who has poor approval ratings.

In 2005, Solís left the National Liberation Party, saying it had “lost its soul.”

The elections authority has yet to announce final results, but a second-round vote on April 6 is likely.

Just as surprising as Solis’ strong finish was Villalta’s lower-than-expected vote tally. The 36-year-old lawmaker had solid momentum going into Sunday’s vote, with many pollsters believing he could take Araya to a second round.

In an emotional concession speech, Villalta said he faced “a brutal fear campaign” by opponents who compared him to the late Venezuelan strongman Hugo Chávez, but that, “it is clear that the people have spoken and we are going to respect what they’ve said.” Villalta said he had hoped to capture many more votes.

Costa Rica’s elections, which were peaceful, showed a growing polarization among progressive and conservative voters.

Although he lost, Villalta said his young party had “a promising future,” and would play a strong role in the Legislative Assembly, where the party could capture at least 10 of 57 seats. Before tonight’s election, Villalta was the Broad Front Party’s sole lawmaker.

Villalta’s and Solis’ messages of fighting corruption and addressing growing social inequality resonated among many in the country, following what both Villalta and Solís have characterized as 30 years of “neoliberal” rule.

Chinchilla, whose administration is the least popular in the past two decades, leaves behind a fiscal deficit of 5.4 percent, public debt that tops 50 percent of gross domestic product, and a polarized society that has the unfortunate distinction of showing the greatest economic inequality in Latin America in 2013.

Araya unsuccessfully tried to distance himself from Chinchilla’s administration, promising to reactivate the economy and reduce poverty, which has remained at 20 percent for two decades. 

Araya promised a “sincere effort” to renovate his party and return to its social democratic roots.

The next president, who will take office May 8, will need to be a strong negotiator to face a divided Assembly, said analyst Manuel Rojas. “He won’t be able to govern alone with just his party, which has been the recent reality.”

The voter abstention rate in Sunday’s election hovered between 32-34 percent of 3.1 million voters, consistent with the previous two presidential elections.

 

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Luana Pavesi

Salviamo il futuro del costa Rica

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Dorothy MacKinnon

Great coverage! Thanks for keeping me up to speed on this election.

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jc

This article is riddled with inaccuracies. First of all Costa Rica does not have the “unfortunate distinction of showing the greatest economic inequality in Latin America in 2013″. The country places comfortably in the middle of the GINI scale when looking in Latin America.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:World_Income_Gini_Map_(2013).svg

Secondly, Frente Amplio, the socialist party, holds 9 seats in the new congress not 10 as stated in your article.

Its clear that TT, like some other news outlets, have shown a clear bias towards the now failed presidential candidate Jose Maria Villalta but at least keep the indisputable facts straight if you want to have a shred of credibility left at the end of the day

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Puskwakau

The 2013 economic slide in C.R. was the worst in Latin America, putting it in the middle of the pack. The ’10 seats’ is a Villalta quote, not a statement of fact.

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John W.

Benjamin, did you know that Liberation is a member of Socialist International? Did you know that Frente Amplio is not a member of an international organization? Stop with the scare tactics already.

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Jose

Let stay on task to beat PLN

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Benjamin Case

Change has arrived in Costa Rica named PAC

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John W.

I am overjoyed that Solís is in the run-off. Villalta was a good candidate, but I like the fact that Solís is an outsider.

Araya, Chinchilla, and Liberation have left the country a mess. They don’t deserve to govern anymore.

If Broad Front’s supporters come out for Solís and PAC, this country will be in excellent shape. Costa Rica will be able to return to its core values of environmentalism, independence, and social justice. Those are the reasons we came to this country.

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Puskwakau

These very laudable ‘core values’ can only be achieved with an economic growth plan that isn’t based on taxs taxs taxs. Because we all know the largest tax base is middle class and poor. Tax incentives for employment creation will grow C.R. More than a tax grab.

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John W.

It depends on who is being taxed. Corporations, people with shelters, and people who withhold their money from development should be taxed more. Under Chinchilla’s neo-liberal reign, taxes have been rolled back and unemployment has skyrocketed. Araya, whose only recent success as mayor was a Chinese-backed concession downtown, would continue those disastrous policies.

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Jason

You’re uninformed. San Jose was a mess before Araya took over the city. My wife is an upper class Tica and couldn’t voice more support for why he has done. The streets were a illegal immigrant plagued market like Granada before he took over and there was no room to walk on the sidewalks. He forced removal of the vendor shanty stalls was a Bold and correct move. That improvement alone was a massive credit to his governing skills. That being said, I like both candidates for this runoff. Can’t go wrong!

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John W.

Well, most upper-class people, Ticos and foreigners alike, prefer Liberation. Have you been to San Jose lately? I have only known San Jose under Johnny Araya, so I can only say that it isn’t a great place to go. If it was worse than it is now, I can’t imagine. The rent is ridiculous, along with the traffic and prices of consumables.

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Marcello

Johnny would have been basically more of the same. Who is this Solis and would he be a threat to ex-Pats or a friend? He’s on record opposing the free trade agreement, that type of thinking may bode poorly for Costa Rica’s economic future…is he another Barack Obama who could collapse the economy or a breath of fresh air?

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Benjamin Case

Pac is heading the right direction the Expats need not worry they can come and go if they want. And as for the Cafta or US free trade there needs to be some changes even Nafta between Canada and USA. Canada wants some changes with USA. Expat need to let Costa Rica politics alone.Pac has a plan to fix Roads and Buses and Caja and Pension its a Sound Plan. Every know that its Small busines that make a good system.

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John W.

PAC is definitely headed in the right direction.

CAFTA and the other free trade agreements have been fantastic for the international executives who live in the country, but bad for workers. Real wages are down, unemployment is up, and export prices are not keeping up with even the tiny inflation numbers coming out of Washington DC and New York. Liberation’s promise of CAFTA helping the farmer has not working at all.

Solis is going to be good for the economy, environment, and social framework. That’s why he’ll be good to expats who appreciate those things about this country.