Costa Rica’s runoff campaign season ended Sunday with Solís pressing supporters to get out and vote

April 8, 2014

Costa Rica’s second-ever presidential runoff campaign came to an end Sunday evening, but only one party created much fanfare about the deadline.

Front-runner Luis Guillermo Solís of the Citizen Action Party (PAC) ended his campaign at the Plaza de Guarantías Sociales in central San José Sunday evening, encouraging supporters to get out the vote on April 6. Solís had previously said he wanted 1 million votes on Sunday to shore up his popular mandate despite not having an active opponent.

Sunday was the last day during this election that political parties can distribute or pay for propaganda.

Solís, 55, struck an inclusive tone in his closing campaign speech: “Many thanks to the Costa Rican people because what we see today is not the action of one party but the joining of many, the efforts of many people from different ideological backgrounds who understand that change is needed and that the hour of change has come.”

The former university professor, who has never held elected office, campaigned on a platform of anti-corruption and government transparency. Solís emerged as a surprise favorite for the presidency after the first round of voting on Feb. 2. The candidate of the center-left PAC benefited from a backdrop of voter dissatisfaction with eight years of National Liberation Party (PLN) leadership. Solís compared his campaign and the expectant PAC government as a tsunami wiping out politics as usual.

“If people demand that their government govern well, then demand more from PAC, much more from PAC,” he said.

The PLN did not hold any public event to mark the end of a presidential campaign that left the ruling party in crisis and questioning how they would reshape their social democratic message that had veered to the right in recent years.

Former mayor of San José and ruling party candidate Johnny Araya announced he would suspend his campaign on March 5, following a disappointing showing in a national poll and a lack of financial resources to continue. Despite dropping out of the race, Araya encouraged Costa Ricans to vote but said he would no longer hold public events or pay for campaign advertising.

The PLN candidate has said he would respect the vote regardless of the outcome.

The only message from Araya’s Facebook page to mark the close of the campaign Sunday was, “Enjoy this Sunday with your family.” The former candidate’s Twitter account went silent on March 10.

PLN supporters have found themselves in the strange position of campaigning for a candidate who has already conceded defeat. Ruling party leaders last week tried to challenge the PAC to a last minute debate but it was unclear who would debate in place of Araya. After the parties were unable to reach an agreement on the number of debates and subjects in the short time left, the opposition eventually refused.

Legally, Araya’s name cannot be dropped from the ballot and Solís must still obtain a simple majority Sunday to win the presidency.

“It’s the Costa Rica we love that we want to rescue from injustice, corruption, inequality, poverty and that’s why we need to vote on April 6,” the PAC candidate said.

Alberto Font/The Tico Times
Supporters of Citizen Action Party presidential candidate Luis Guillermo Solís wave the party's red and yellow flag days before what will likely be the 14-year-old party's first presidential victory. Alberto Font/The Tico Times
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