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Elections in Costa Rica: former president José María Figueres leads the count, but would not prevail in the first round

San Jose Costa Rica.- Costa Rica has reaffirmed this Sunday its democracy in an election with a great citizen participation. According to data from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, with 70.82% of the tables counted, former president José María Figueres -who governed between 1994 and 1998- leads the elections, with the 27.32% of the votes. For the time being, the second place goes to the economist Rodrigo Chaves, from Democratic Social Progress, with the 16.65%; and closely followed by the New Republic candidate, Fabricio Alvarado, with 15.22%.

“I have been saying in this campaign that Costa Rica deserved to win and today they have started to win. He will definitely continue to win with our victory,” said Figueres at his campaign headquarters in San José, to the applause of his supporters.

Of the five candidates with real options to reach the presidency, he was the first to vote. “We have a million and a half people living in poverty and half a million in extreme poverty. There is a lack of housing solutions of 160,000 homes. We had never experienced these things to such an extent in this country,” he said at the time. After voting, he visited the grave of his father, former president José Figueres Ferrer, who abolished the Army in 1948.

On the other hand, in the midst of the celebration of his constituents, Chaves said: "We are now going to a second round and I ask you to leave behind the conflict and the sterile confrontation." And he added: "Mr. José María [Figueres], I beg you for a tall campaign, proactive and with ideas."

Meanwhile, the conservative and evangelical Fabricio Alvarado, 47, of the New Republic Party, said: "This does not end here (…) New Republic is here to stay."

In these elections, some 3.5 million Costa Ricans, out of a total of five million, they also elect 57 deputies.

In the race for the presidency in the first round there is no clear favorite among the 25 candidates, what does foresee the possibility of a ballot. If no candidate obtains at least 40% of the votes, a second round will be held on April 3 between the two most voted; and as seen from the tables counted so far, no candidate comes close to that threshold in recent polls.

The winner will replace the current president, Carlos Alvarado, who was recently asked by the prosecution to withdraw immunity from prosecution on charges related to the collection of personal information from citizens. You are not eligible to apply again.

Former President (1994-1998) and candidate for the National Liberation Party, José María Figueres
Former President (1994-1998) and candidate for the National Liberation Party, José María Figueres EZEQUIEL BECERRA – AFP

Known for being the first country in Latin America in the 2018-2020 global happiness ranking and its environmental activism, Costa Rica sees its joy overshadowed by a severe financial and social crisis.

In the last quarter of a century, Costa Rica has had a sustained growth of its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), high indicators of human development and universal health coverage, in the midst of one of the most "full" democracies on the continent, according to The Economist. However, although in the political aspect the country remains an oasis in the region, its economic model began to show cracks evidenced by the coronavirus pandemic, especially for young people and the less favored classes.

According to surveys, the biggest concerns of Costa Ricans are unemployment (located at 14%) and the management of the economy, along with corruption, which affected the outgoing Alvarado, whose party (PAC) received less than 1% of support.

With information from the Reuters agency and DPA