Conservative evangelical ex-president leads early vote count in Costa Rica

Former President Jose Maria Figueres sees 29% of the vote while Fabricio Alvarado sees 17%, based on returns from nearly a quarter of polling stations

SAN JOSE, Costa Rica — Former President Jose Maria Figueres and conservative Fabricio Alvarado led the vote tally in Costa Rica’s presidential election on Sunday, February 6, putting them in pole position to advance to a decisive second round, preliminary partial results shown.

Figueres won almost 29% of the vote, while evangelical Christian Alvarado’s ticket won support of just over 17%, an initial tally from the electoral tribunal showed, based on returns from almost a quarter of the polling stations.

To win the first round, a candidate must obtain more than 40% of the votes. Otherwise, the two main contenders will face each other in a second round on April 3.

Figueres, who ruled 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 2018 elections in the Central American country.

The 57 seats in 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 over a four-year term.

The Electoral Tribunal said voting was going smoothly across the country. Preliminary data showed a participation rate 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 get better, for the government to work better,” Romero said. ” The situation is critical. It’s not about going back, but moving forward and learning from the experience.

The country’s incumbent president, centre-left politician Carlos Alvarado, cannot run for a second consecutive term.

According to opinion polls, about a third of voters in the Central American country of about 5 million people had not decided who to turn to before the election.

Victor Morales, a 56-year-old flag seller, was among the undecided.

“My business went down because of the bad governments we had,” Morales said. “Before, people gathered to support political parties.”

The ruling centre-left Citizen Action Party (PAC), which has been in power for two terms, received less than 1% support in the Center for Research and Policy Studies poll.

The National Assembly must, among other responsibilities, negotiate significant financial support from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). – Rappler.com

Barry F. Howard