Conservative Rodrigo Chavez greets his supporters after winning the presidential election in Costa Rica, April 3, 2022, in San José (AFP/Ezequiel BECERRA)
Conservative Rodrigo Chavez, a former executive director of the World Bank, was elected Sunday as president of Costa Rica for a four-year term, in one of Latin America’s most stable countries but in the grip of an economic and social crisis.
Centrist candidate José María Figueres recognized the victory of Mr. Chávez, who won 52.9% of the vote against his opponent’s 47.1%, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) said after counting 89% of the ballots.
About 3.5 million voters were called to the polls in the small Central American country, which has long been considered the most stable in Latin America. The vote passed without major incident.
“Costa Rica has voted and the people have spoken. As democrats, we will always respect this decision (…) I congratulate Rodrigo Chávez and wish him all the best,” said Mr. Figueres, the former president of the Republic, in front of a crowd of supporters.
“I accept this sacred decision of the Costa Rican people with the deepest humility (…) This result is not a medal or a trophy for me, but a huge responsibility,” Mr. Chavez said for his part.
Mr Chavez, 60, promises to provide solutions to the problems facing Costa Rica: a foreign debt equivalent to 70% of GDP, poverty that affects 23% of the population, unemployment at 14% and public sector corruption scandals. .
– outsider –
An economist, Mr. Chavez slammed the door of the outgoing government’s finance ministry after just 180 days. He followed a fast-paced trajectory during the election campaign.
He qualified as an underdog in the first round on 6 February at the head of the new Social Democratic Progress Party (PPSD) and rose very quickly in the polls during the two months between two rounds.
In doing so, he overcame with voters the disadvantage of being sanctioned for sexual harassment against two employees between 2008 and 2013, when he worked at the World Bank.
Supporters of conservative Rodrigo Chávez celebrate his victory in the presidential election in Costa Rica, April 3, 2022, in San José (AFP/Ezequiel BECERRA)
His rival Jose Maria Figueres, who already ruled the country from 1994 to 1998, did not escape reproaches.
Without a trial against the former president, an investigation was launched, suspected of receiving $900,000 from the French company Alcatel in 2004 for government contracts. While in exile in Europe, Mr. Figueres refused to face the challenges of justice and only returned to his country in 2011, when the case was closed.
“On April 3, there will be a real revolution in the history of this country. We are going to put things in order in the house,” Mr. Chavez, who cultivates the image of a fighter, said during his last meeting.
However, the new president will not have a majority in parliament and will have to deal with other parties.
– “There is no work here” –
Incumbent President Carlos Alvarado could not run for a second consecutive term under the provisions of the Constitution.
At a polling station in San José, Costa Rica, April 3, 2022. (AFP/LUIS ACOSTA)
“Our main concern is to have a job, (a) an economy (that works) and security,” said Angela Marin, 58, who voted in San Jose.
“The next president should change everything! There is no work here, there is nothing here,” Ana Brisegno, a 64-year-old travel agent, commented on one of the streets of the capital.
Tourism, one of the main engines of the country’s economy, has been hit hard by the coronavirus pandemic, and Costa Rica has experienced the region’s highest unemployment growth, along with Peru.
But the country remains “the happiest” in Latin America, according to the latest World Happiness Report.