Costa Rica to elect its new president on Sunday

Source:Xinhua Published: 2018/4/2 7:58:08

Costa Rican presidential candidate Carlos Alvarado, from the Citizen Action Party (PAC), casts his vote at a polling station in San Jose, Costa Rica, on April 1, 2018. Around 3.3 million Costa Ricans are called on Sunday to vote for its 44th president, choosing between evangelical candidate from the National Restoration Party (PRN), Fabricio Alvarado and the official candidate from the Citizen Action Party (PAC), Carlos Alvarado.Photo:Xinhua


 
Around 3.3 million Costa Ricans are called on Sunday to vote for its 44th president, choosing between evangelical candidate from the National Restoration Party (PRN), Fabricio Alvarado and the official candidate from the Citizen Action Party (PAC), Carlos Alvarado.

According to the latest poll by the Research Center for Political Sciences (Ciep) at the University of Costa Rica, the candidates were in a dead heat, with Fabricio Alvarado on 43 percent and Carlos Alvarado on 42 percent, and 15 percent of voters undecided.

The campaign between the two rounds has seen the population accuse both sides, with the PRN being accused of religious fundamentalism and the PAC is being blamed for the current government's corruption scandals.

The Organization of American States (OAS) will supervise the election with international observers, although Costa Rica has a strong track record of clean and fair elections.

Fabricio Alvarado is the PRN candidate, an evangelical group. He surged to victory in the first round on Feb. 4, after the Inter-American Court of Human Rights asked Costa Rica to pass gay marriage.

The former deputy has campaigned on the pledge to rescue "principles and values" by opposing gay marriage. This struck a chord with the public and he won 24.99 percent of the vote in the first round.

In second place came the candidate from the official Citizen Action Party (PAC), Carlos Alvarado, who won 21.63 percent.

Carlos Alvarado has come out in favor of gay marriage and has slammed Fabricio Alvarado for campaigning on a single issue, without having a plan for government.

The two men are also opposed on environmental issues. While Costa Rica has long been seen as a global example of environmental protection success, Fabricio Alvarado is open to allowing more mining while Carlos Alvarado wishes to make the economy greener.

The two men also differ in their political careers. Fabricio Alvarado, while he was a deputy for four years, has spent most of his life as a preacher and evangelical singer.

Carlos Alvarado has been in politics all his adult life. Currently just 38, he was communications director for current President Luis Guillermo Solis, and served as Minister of Human Development and then Minister of Labor.

Carlos Alvarado has proved most popular in cities and with young people, while the preacher Fabricio Alvarado has polled well among rural voters in the north and along the coasts.

To appeal to undecided voters, both candidates have promised to ally with other parties. The biggest alliance has been between Carlos Alvarado and Rodolfo Piza, from the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), who finished fourth in the elections.

Should he win, Carlos Alvarado has promised a coalition government focused on economic affairs, including the country's fiscal deficit.

However, the PUSC and the National Liberation Party (PLN) have not formally given instructions on how to vote, leaving their leaders, lawmakers and members to make their own decision.

The key issue will be the ability of Fabricio Alvarado to spread his appeal beyond an evangelical base. While he attracted the 22 percent of the population that declare themselves to be evangelical or pentecostal, he has not made the same inroads in the Catholic population (52 percent).

Speaking as polls opened on Sunday morning, Solis was emphatic in asking the country to unite behind the new administration.

"The message (on Easter Sunday) is of unity, of national joy ... It seems to me that it is a good time to hold elections as we will conclude today with the election of a new president," he said.

"This is a country that must be united. It has been an intense campaign but once it is over, it is time to reconcile and join hands to move forward and seek the well-being of all," continued Solis.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) is expected to provide the first update on results at 8 p.m.

Posted in: AMERICAS

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