Costa Rica Political Reviews

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.

According to Countryaah, 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 the government.

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.

Fragmented Parliament

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 parliament.

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 created.

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.

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