Former president and former World Bank economist, to the presidential ballot in Costa Rica

February 7, 2022

Voters line up during the first round of Costa Rica’s presidential elections at a polling station, in San José, Costa Rica. February 6, 2022. REUTERS/Monica Quesada NO RESALES. DO NOT FILE

By Alvaro Murillo

SAN JOSÉ, Feb 6 (Reuters) – The former president of Costa Rica, the centrist José María Figueres, and the former World Bank official, the center-right Rodrigo Chaves, assured on Sunday their passage to the second round of the presidential elections, scheduled for the April 3, according to preliminary official results.

With 70.82% of the ballot boxes counted, Figueres, president during 1994 and 1998 and champion of the National Liberation Party (PLN), collected 27.32% of the votes. Chaves, former Minister of Finance, continued to establish himself in second place with 16.65% of the preferences, and already had a difference of 20,560 votes over the evangelical preacher Fabricio Alvarado.

Further back was former conservative vice president Lineth Saborío, with 12.56% of the vote. The contest was attended by 25 candidates – a record – but none managed to add the 40% support required to avoid the second round.

59.92% of the little more than 3.5 million Costa Ricans went to the polls in a day marked by indecision until the last moment. According to polls, a week earlier a third had not decided their vote to succeed the progressive Carlos Alvarado for the 2022-2026 period.

“We are one step away from starting the transformation of Costa Rica. We won this first round by a robust margin and that also gives us an enormous responsibility. Tomorrow we will continue the tireless work for the final victory on April 3,” Figueres told His Followers.

For his part, Chaves celebrated the virtual pass to the ballot with his supporters of the centrist Social Democratic Progress Party (PPSD).

“The youngest party of this campaign goes to the second round, (…) to reorient the course of the country and restore the prosperity of our people. Those who share that objective will be welcome and welcomed (…) From this tunnel we are going to go out together,” he encouraged.

In the last quarter of a century, Costa Rica has had sustained growth in its Gross Domestic Product (GDP), high indicators of human development and universal health coverage, in the midst of one of the “fullest” democracies on the continent, according to The Economist.

However, although in the political aspect the country continues to be an oasis in the region, its economic model began to show cracks evidenced by the coronavirus pandemic, especially for young people and the less favored classes.

According to surveys, the biggest concerns of Costa Ricans are unemployment (located at 14%) and the management of the economy, along with corruption, which affected the outgoing Alvarado, whose party (PAC) received less than 1% of support.


Figueres, 67, led a turbulent and unpopular government, but now praises that he paved the way for the current technology industry in Costa Rica by achieving, in 1997, the installation of the microprocessor giant, Intel.

Graduated from West Point as an industrial engineer, the former president assures that he is the candidate with the best international contacts and the ability to govern pragmatically and focused on accelerating the economy to create jobs.

However, who was Minister of Foreign Trade and Agriculture and Livestock between 1986 and 1990, faces a strong rejection from part of the population, which attributes acts of corruption to him for the alleged influence so that the multinational Alcatel obtained contracts with the State in 2004.

For his part, Chaves, 60, is charged with accusations of inappropriate sexual conduct against his colleagues while he was working as an official of the World Bank (WB), which he resigned after the accusations.

Doctor in Economics from the University of Ohio and a Harvard researcher, he was Minister of Finance for six months in the Alvarado government, whom he criticized during the election campaign for “benefiting powerful sectors of the economy.”

The economist, who presents himself as the standard-bearer of popular discontent with the traditional political parties and the functioning of the State, promises to lower the cost of living through decrees and says that he will order the functioning of the public sector “with a heavy hand.”

However, most of the future president’s proposals must be finally approved by the unicameral Congress, whose 57 seats have yet to be defined, with the forecast of high party fragmentation, according to analysts.

Currently, the PLN is the largest legislative force with 17 deputies, followed by the PAC, with nine.

The approval of the austerity measures and tax increases proposed by Alvarado will depend on the new composition of the Legislative Assembly to comply with the agreement with the International Monetary Fund (IMF), agreed in 2021 to stabilize public finances hit by the pandemic.

(Edited by Diego Oré)