|A series of corruption scandals and growing
dissatisfaction with the government's inability to reduce
poverty and social disparities led to a new party winning
the presidential power in Costa Rica in 2014.
Costa Rica has a well-established and stable democracy. The
country's political development and democratic tradition is
unique in the Central American context. After a brief civil
war in 1948, the army was abolished, freeing up more
resources for the welfare of the population. This has led to
the establishment of welfare institutions that include most
of the population.
A new party won the presidential power
With the surprising election of Luis Guillermo Solís from
the Partido de Acción Ciudadana (PAC) as president in 2014,
Costa Rica has got its first president from a different
party than the two traditional ones.
Since the Civil War in 1948 until 2002, Costa Rica had a
two-party system in which the Social Democratic Partido
Liberación Nacional (PLN) and the Christian Democratic
Partido de Unidad Socialcristiana (PUSC) alternated holding
In 2010, Laura Chinchilla (PLN) was elected Costa Rica's
first female president by a clear margin ahead of her main
challenger Ottón Solís of the PAC. But Chinchilla's
presidential term was disastrous. It was marked by a series
of corruption scandals, and she was ranked as the country's
least popular president of all time and the least popular by
Latin American presidents. The intensity of social protests
reached historic heights during Chinchilla's presidential
term. The ruling party had lost its credibility and PLN's
candidate for the 2014 presidential election Johnny Araya,
mayor of the capital San José since 1998, was therefore
given a very difficult task. Araya tried to distance himself
from Chinchilla and launched himself as the one to find back
to the PLN's Social Democratic roots.
PAC's founder Ottón Solís had been the party's
presidential candidate for three consecutive elections and
did not want to run again. After winning the internal
primary election by a small margin, it was therefore the
relatively unknown history professor Luis Guillermo Solís
who became the PAC presidential candidate in 2014.
Johnny Araya was the best at polls, but his closest
competitor was not PAC presidential candidate Luis Guillermo
Solís, but José María Villalta of the small left-wing party
Frente Amplio (FA). Villalta emerged as the candidate for
the only party not affected by corruption scandals
The first round of the presidential election therefore
came as a surprise when Luis Guillermo Solís won the first
round of elections, with 30.6 percent of the vote, finely
ahead of Johnny Araya (PLN), with 29.7 percent. Villata (FA)
came in third with 17.3 percent. Solís and Araya thus went
on to another round of elections. When polls showed that
Araya would be unlucky against Solís in the second round,
Araya announced that he would no longer run an active
election campaign. But since he could not retire as a
candidate, the second round of elections was held as normal.
Solís won the second round with almost 78 percent of the
vote. President Solis' most important fanfare is to fight
corruption and reduce poverty and social inequality.
The new parliament is as fragmented as the previous one.
The number of parties represented in the new parliament
increased from 8 to 9, three of them with only one
representative each. With its 13 representatives, the PAC is
nowhere near having a majority in the country's legislative
assembly consisting of 57 members. The party has therefore
initiated cooperation with the FA and PUSC in parliament.
The major loser of the election, PLN, lost a full 6
seats, but with 18 seats still remains the largest party in
parliament. The winners of the parliamentary elections were
the PUSC and, above all, the FA. A revitalized PUSC under
the leadership of the party's presidential candidate Rodolfo
Piza increased his representation from 5 to 8. In 2010, the
small left-wing party, Frente Amplio, was elected a single
representative. Now they have increased their representation
to 9 seats and are thus the third largest party in
The 2014 elections were the first time local elections
for municipal councils and mayors were not held at the same
time as the national elections for parliament and president.
This was probably a disadvantage for the PLN government.
2014 was also the first time Costa Rican citizens abroad
could take part in the elections.
Another news at the 2014 elections was that the parties
had to nominate men and women differently each time on the
election lists. But since the parties had consistently
nominated men at the top of the constituencies in the
various constituencies (there was no requirement for a woman
to be at the top of the constituency), and a number of
parties won only one term in the constituency, the number of
female representatives in the new parliament fell from 23 of
57 to 18 of 57.
Tense relationship with Nicaragua
The relationship with Nicaragua has traditionally been
tense and tapered off in October 2010, when disagreement
over the San Juan border once again became a theme. Costa
Rica accused Nicaragua of invading Costa Rican territory
since Nicaragua's dredging of the San Juan River had cut
across a islet (Isla Calero) belonging to Costa Rica. The
case went to the International Court of Justice in The
Hague, which issued its ruling in November 2013. The ruling
upheld Costa Rica in the sense that Nicaragua was required
to withdraw and refill the dredging channels they had
Relationship with Nicaragua did not improve when
Nicaragua's President Daniel Ortega in September 2013 in a
speech almost claimed the Costa Rican border province of
Guanacaste. This area belonged to Nicaragua administratively
during the colonial period before it became part of Costa
Rica three years after independence. Daniel Ortega was the
only one of the Central American presidents who was not
personally invited to attend the inauguration of President
Luis Guillermo Solís.
Fight against crime
While crime and drug trafficking are still a major
problem in Costa Rica, there has been some improvement in
this area during Chinchilla's presidential term. The police
have been strengthened with personnel and resources. The
number of drug seizures and the amount of drugs seized has
increased in recent years. According to the annual report on
the state of the state, el Estado de la Nación, for 2013,
the murder rate (number of murders per 100,000 population)
has dropped from 11.5 to 8.7 over the last three years.