SAN JOSE, Costa Rica – Ex-president Jose Maria Figueres and conservative Fabricio Alvarado led the early vote count in the Costa Rican presidential election on Sunday, February 6, putting them in pole position to progress to a decisive run-off, preliminary partial results showed.
Figueres was seen winning nearly 29% of the vote, while evangelical Christian Alvarado’s ticket had support of just over 17%, an initial tally by the electoral tribunal showed, based on returns from nearly a quarter of polling stations.
To win the first round outright, a candidate must secure more than 40% of votes. Otherwise, the two leading contenders will face each other in a run-off on April 3.
Figueres, who governed from 1994 to 1998 under the centrist National Liberation Party, had been a slight favorite heading into the first round, according to opinion polls.
Alvarado, of the neo-Pentecostal New Republic Party, was the runner-up in the Central American country’s 2018 election.
All 57 seats of the unicameral legislative assembly are also up for grabs.
Costa Ricans have said they want their next leader to tackle corruption and high unemployment rates during a four-year term.
The electoral tribunal reported voting was going smoothly across the country. Preliminary data showed a turnout of just over 55%.
In the capital San Jose, Enrique Romero, a 52-year-old construction worker, said he would vote for Figueres.
“I want things to improve, that the government functions better,” Romero said. “The situation is critical. It is not about going back to the past, but about moving forward and learning from experience.”
The country’s outgoing President, center-left politician Carlos Alvarado, cannot seek a second consecutive term.
About a third of the voters in the Central American nation of about 5 million people had not made up their minds on whom to back ahead of the election, according to opinion polls.
Victor Morales, a 56-year-old who sells flags, was among those who were undecided.
“My business has dropped due to the bad governments we have had,” Morales said. “Before, people used to rally to support political parties.”
The ruling center-left Citizen Action (PAC) party, which has been in power for two terms, received less than 1% of support in the Center for Research and Political Studies poll.
The national assembly, among other responsibilities, is due to negotiate important financial support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). – Rappler.com