Costa Ricans head to the polls in municipal elections

February 7, 2016

Costa Ricans began voting Sunday morning to choose local mayors, council members and other municipal officials in 81 cantons in the country’s seven provinces.

Just over 3 million people are eligible to vote to fill 6,069 municipal posts, although local elections in Costa Rica traditionally have been marked by high rates of voter abstention.

That trend seemed to continue at least early Sunday morning, with many voting centers in schools mostly empty.

One of the first to vote was President Luis Guillermo Solís, who cast his ballot in the Escuela República de México in the San José neighborhood of Aranjuez.

Solís urged other citizens to follow his lead. “This is a day of fiesta for Costa Rica’s democracy,” Solís said. Voting “is a right that not everyone in the world has,” he added.

But the fervor for voting that’s seen in presidential elections in Costa Rica hasn’t yet caught on for municipal elections, with abstention rates hovering above 70 percent on average.

Polls opened at 6 a.m. and will remain open until 6 p.m. The 5,000 polling centers across the country were operating smoothly, according to Héctor Fernández, general director of the Supreme Elections Tribunal.

“Everything is calm and ready for voters to come to the polls tranquilly,” Fernández said.

Urging voters to participate, TSE President Luis Antonio Sobrado said that “what’s at stake are the interests of each and every citizen.”

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