The ex-president Jose Maria Figueres led in the early hours of Monday the vote count of the first round of the presidential election in Costa Rica, although the definition with the former Minister of Finance, Rodrigo Chaves will move to a ballotscheduled for April 3.
According to the official numbers provided by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), with just over 79 percent of the count carried out, Figueres, 67, and center-left candidate for the National Liberation Party (PLN), led the elections with 27.28 percent of the votes.
“I have been saying in this campaign that Costa Rica deserved to win and today it has begun to win. It will definitely continue to win with our victory,” said Figueres, son of the emblematic former president José Figueres Ferrer, who was responsible for the abolition of the Army in 1948.
The former Costa Rican president between 1994-1998 is a graduate in industrial engineering from the West Point Military Academy in the United States. During that mandate he created a payment system for environmental services, promoted ecotourism and is credited with the arrival of Intel in Costa Rica in 1996.
Figueres leads the elections but is not enough to win in the first round. Photo: Mayela Lopez/Reuters
However, their management was also surrounded by controversy for the closure of the Anglo Bank and the railway and his political career was involved in a scandal of alleged influence peddling, for receiving 900,000 dollars for advice to Alcatel between 2000 and 2003.
He began in politics during the period 1986-1990, when he was Minister of Foreign Trade and of Agriculture and Livestock in the first administration of the Nobel Peace Prize winner, Óscar Arias. He subsequently went to Harvard University to earn a Master’s degree in Public Administration in 1991.
After the death of his father, he announced his intention to reach the Presidency and at the age of 39 he became the 42nd ruler of Costa Rica in 1994, and in the youngest president of the continent at that time.
The second placemomentarily, occupies it Keyswho represents the Social Democratic Progress party.
The right-wing economist accumulates 16.67 percent of the votes, in an election act that featured a high percentage of abstentionism, of 40 percent, considered the highest in the history of the country. The main cause of this situation is society’s disenchantment with the political class, in the midst of economic problems that hit the country and accusations of corruption.
“Already let’s go to a second round and I ask you to leave behind the conflict and the sterile confrontation (…) Don José María (Figueres), I beg you for a tall, purposeful and ideas campaign,” said Chaves, who in the debate for these elections recognized that when he occupied a senior official at the World Bank spoke of “an orgy with six species of animals” to two subordinates.
For that episode, which Chaves tried to minimize by stressing that it was “jokes or something like that”, the economist received a sanction from that body, for alleged sexual harassment against those two women.
Rodrigo Chaves declared himself as one of the two candidates who advance to the second electoral round in Costa Rica. Photo Jeffrey Arguedas/EFE
The 60-year-old candidate, married, father of a girl and also a philosopher, appeared in the polls prior to the elections with around 5% support, but in the elections this Sunday he smashed the forecasts.
He was Minister of Finance between December 2019 and May 2020, after working for more than 20 years in various positions at the World Bank. During the campaign, his opponents criticized him for not revealing the names of the people who financed his campaign.
conservative and evangelical Fabrizio Alvarado47, from the New Republic Party, was third with 14.95 percent of the votes, although his performance decreased as the count progressed. “This does not end here (…) New Republic is here to stay,” she assured, anyway.
In total, 25 candidates competed, who to prevail in the first round they needed to obtain more than 40 percent of the votes.
In this contest, the 57 deputies of the Legislative Assembly are also elected and the first calculations suggest a highly fragmented Parliament.
A country in crisis
Known for being one of the countries with the most stable democracies in Latin America and the first country in Latin America in the global happiness ranking 2018-2020, Costa Rica’s reputation is tarnished by a severe financial and social crisis. The task of confronting it will be in the hands of the next ruler.
Unemployment (14.4% in 2021), poverty (23% in 2021) and an economy with public debt equivalent to 70% of GDP set off the alarms of multilateral organizations.
The situation worsened with the Covid-19 pandemic, which since the beginning of 2020 hit tourism hard, one of its main engines.
What’s more, in the last 13 years, two former presidents faced trials for corruption (one was convicted) and in 2021 two cases of million-dollar irregularities broke out in the public works sector, with ministers involved.
As the night progressed, the streets of San José were filled with cars and people celebrating the candidates leading the vote. In the premises of Figueres and Chaves there was a party atmosphere.
With information from agencies