Citizen Action Party (PAC) presidential candidate Luis Guillermo Solís announced an ambitious goal to capture 1 million votes in Costa Rica’s April 6 runoff election. Solís seeks a popular mandate to govern Costa Rica after National Liberation Party (PLN) candidate Johnny Araya announced his exit from the race this week.
Solís said his campaign is active despite Araya’s stepping down, and that he is still focused on winning over voters.
“I want to think, instead of saying a percentage, that we can mobilize a million votes,” Solís said, according to the daily La Nación.
Solís expressed concern Wednesday night that the apparently empty field would discourage voters from coming out to the polls. The former diplomat worried that low turnout could weaken his mandate and give his presidency a shaky start.
Eric Farnsworth, vice president of the Americas Society/Council of the Americas, said that the lack of a challenger could give Solís the chance to focus on building broader support and consensus.
“If Solís wins this would allow him to have a healing message and in some ways a more traditional Costa Rican message of unity and strength of institutions,” the think-tank expert told The Tico Times.
Rotsay Rosales, professor of political science at the University of Costa Rica, was dubious about how the election’s changing circumstances would benefit Solís. “He’ll have the symbolic support that democracy and his party requires but it won’t be enough” to stave off criticisms about his legitimacy, Rosales said.
If PAC wins the election, Solís will face a weakened but still formidable PLN in the Legislative Assembly. The PLN still owns the majority of the seats in the Assembly.
“Liberation might call themselves the opposition, but they’re the biggest opposition,” Rosales added, noting that during Feb. 2 elections PLN won 18 seats in the 57-seat legislature. PAC won the next largest block with 13 seats.
More than 3 million Costa Ricans are registered to vote. Voter abstention in the first round exceeded 30 percent, according to the Supreme Elections Tribunal, and observers expect it to increase in the second round. With his opponent choosing to stop campaigning, Solís estimated that abstention would likely increase by 10 or 15 percent for the runoff, according to La Nación.
“If 40 percent stay home that’s a short-term concern. But at the end of the day he’s still going to be president,” Farnsworth said.