Elections in Costa Rica: Runoff Between Conservative Evangelical and Center-Left Candidates

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Source: El Tiempo / BBC / The Dawn News / February 4, 2018

Presidential candidates Fabricio Alvarado and Carlos Alvarado. Photo Credit: Getty Images

Costa Rica will have a runoff election between two “Alvarados”

Evangelical singer and deputy Fabricio Alvarado will face pro-government Carlos Alvarado in a runoff election.

With 75.1 percent of the polls counted, so far Fabricio Alvarado came ahead with 24.9 percent of the vote, followed by leftist Carlos Alvarado (who is not related to Fabricio) with 21.4 percent.

If this trend continues, it will be the third time in its history that Costa Rica, the oldest democracy in Latin America, will choose its president in a runoff election, after the vote was dispersed between 13 candidates who competed in a fierce campaign which was notably focused on diverging stances on same-sex marriage.

Fabricio Alvarado, Christian music singer and 43-year-old television personality, campaigned on a promise to oppose a ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights that obliges the country to legalize same-sex marriage.

The deputy thus brought in a big portion of the vote of the country’s growing evangelical population—15 percent of the nearly 5 million inhabitants. Alvarado, elected in 2014 as sole deputy of the National Restoration party, formed with other evangelical legislators a common front in the Assembly that opposes the progressive agenda of President Luis Guillermo Solís on issues such as sexual diversity, in vitro fertilization or abortion.

His neoliberal government plan includes austerity measures in public spending, anti-corruption and job creation with foreign investment. But it has not gone into further detail about specific economic actions. Although his electoral program acknowledges the urgent need for a tax reform to fill the increasingly empty public coffers, the candidate has assured in several interviews during the campaign that he will not raise taxes, an issue widely rejected by Costa Ricans.


Conservative boom

Political scientist Philip Alpízar, director of CIEP, explained to AFP that support for the evangelical deputy is explained by the conservative tendency of Costa Rican society, which in a two-to-one ratio is opposed to issues such as homosexual marriage, recreational use of marijuana and the secular state.

“It may be a cyclical thing, it will not necessarily be maintained over time, but (that trend) explains a lot of Alvarado’s growth,” said Alpízar. Before the opinion of the Inter-American Court, the election was dominated by the rejection of corruption, caused by a scandal

But the boom of the conservatives also had its counterpart in Carlos Alvarado, former Minister who is 38 years old and a close ally of center-left President Luis Guillermo Solís, who was recovering ground despite the disenchantment of its bases by the cases of corruption that sprinkled to the Executive Power.

In his speech after the announcement that he was competing in the runoff election, Alvarado said that the administration of President Luis Guillermo Solis “made substantive cuts to luxury pensions, paid the debt and promoted the project of collective agreements, not to add privileges but to remove them,” he added, before emphasizing the need of a government of national unity. “This is a call for national reconstruction.”

The message followed the line of the speech that he repeated during the campaign, in which he promised to maintain the “initiative of change promoted by Solís and presented himself as the leading voice of a new generation of politicians who will replace the traditional ones.

Carlos Alvarado’s supporters value his support for equal marriage and his social and educational proposals.

He was Minister of Human Development and Social Inclusion under Solís and two years later was in charge of the Labor portfolio, which he left in early 2017 to register as a candidate in the internal convention of his party, which he won easily.

As a presidential candidate, he has faced criticism against his party for the “cementazo” or case of the Chinese cement, the most notorious corruption scandal in the country, which was happened during the current government and involves officials of the three branches of power.

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