The Costa Rican Presidential Elections ended up in a run off election between the conservative right evangelical Fabricio Alvarado of Partido Restauracion Nacional (PRN) and the center left candidate of the Partido Accion Ciudadana (PAC), Carlos Alvarado.
Voter participation in this election was 65.69%. The front runner Fabricio Alvarado shocked the mainstream political parties by jumping from 3% of the expected votes in a poll just 3 weeks prior to the election up to 24.9% forcing the run off which will take place in April. The two traditional mainstream parties, the Partido Liberacion Nacional (PLN) led by candidate Antonio Alvarez Desanti and Partido Unidad Social Cristiana (PUSC) led by Rodolfo Piza obtained 18.62% and 16.02% of the vote respectively and did not reach enough votes to participate in the run off and are out of the presidential election process.
Who are the Front Runners of the Election ?
Fabricio Alvarado of the PRN is a 43 year old Journalist turned evangelical preacher who worked as a TV journalist for local Channel 6. He became an evangelical christian in 2003. He ran for a congressional seat with the PRN party and was elected to represent the province of San Jose in the National Congress in 2014.
His candidacy for president was catapulted in what is being labeled as the “religious shock” which occurred when a legal opinion from the International Court of Human Rights indicated that Costa Rica should legalize gay marriage. Fabricio Alvarado took the contrary position indicating that Costa Rican needed to assert its nationalism and conservative values and reject the position of the International Court of Human Rights. Prior to the announcement of the International Court of Human Rights legal opinion Fabricio Alvarado was polling in the 3% range. He ended up taking the first place position with 24.9% of the votes in his favor.
Carlos Alvarado on the other hand is part of the current official government, the Citizen Action Party (PAC). He was the Minister of Labor for the current PAC government of President Luis Guillermo Solis. Carlos Alvarado is 38 years old and holds a masters degree in Political Science from the University of Costa Rica and and one in Development Studies from the University of Sussex in England. The political ideology of the Citizen Action Party (PAC) is center left but in the past they have made alliances with the extreme left party known as Frente Amplio and signed alliances with the union of government employees to protect state owned institutions.
How about the Costa Rican Congress ?
In Costa Rica the Executive branch is dependent on the Congress in order to properly govern and get laws and programs implemented. In Costa Rica the Congress is composed of one chamber with 57 deputies. Whoever wins the Presidential run off in April will need to work with 7 political parties that have won seats in the legislature. Those parties and the seats in congress that they will occupy are as follows:
PLN Partido Liberacion Nacional 17 seats (social democrat ideology)
PRN Partido Restauracion Nacional 14 seats (c0nservative ideology)
PAC Partido Accion Ciudadana 10 seats (center left ideology)
PUSC Partido Unidad Social Cristiana 9 seats (conservative ideology)
PIN Partido Integracion Nacional 4 seats (center right ideology)
PRSC Partido Republicano Social Cristiano 2 seats (social conservative ideology)
FA Frente Amplio 1 seat (leftist ideology)
What is the Political Ideology of the Candidates
In the section below I am highlighting some of the positions adopted by the candidates in the government program plan that they have each posted on their websites.
Fabricio Alvarado of the PRN Full version of his government plan (in Spanish)
Re-launch the Digital Government initiative to eliminate paper from government permitting and ensure that they can be done digitally.
Detect and eliminate bureaucratic government bottlenecks.
Requirement for a new congressional regulations that would allow congress to take more efficient and quicker decisions.
Place a government hiring freeze to reduce the size of government.
Set up a web link for all governmental institutions to increase transparency where they must publish their data related to all financial transactions, contracts, trips, wages and expenses of any kind.
Create a specialized corruption investigation unit where citizens can file anonymous complaints related to government corruption.
Increase penalties for acts of corruption
On Economic Policy
Implement an emergency fiscal policy to free non essential government spending during the first 2 years and suspend superfluous spending all together.
Negotiate with the Congress a contingency fiscal emergency plan to address the current fiscal crisis. Curtail tax evasion by implementing digital filings and systems.
Implement an “open government” policy to render reports to the Congress and public opinion about government expenditures.
Review all government wages and bonuses to verify that they are being properly used.
On Production and Employment
Create more free trade zones in the rural areas of Costa Rica to increase development in those areas.
Stimulate the development of small business enterprises in the tourism industry, cultural tourism, medical tourism and conventions.
Stimulate the participation of smaller businesses to participate in government contracts.
Continue to stimulate foreign investment and strengthen the creation of the Latin American Valley of technology in Costa Rica.
Maintain the policy of clean and green tourism.
Provide incentives for value added agriculture to stimulate local producers.
Fortify the role of the Materials and Structural Models of the University of Costa Rica so that it can adequately inspect all the road infrastructure projects that will be built.
Allow the Costa Rican Electricity Institute to be able to carry out public works for highway construction.
Simplify the process to permit, expropriate, bid and contract for infrastructure projects.
Initiate a modern railway system
Provide incentives for telecommuting to ease congestion on the highways.
Promote strategic alliances with local governments and private entities to execute efficient public mobility options
Restructure the teacher hiring policies to eliminate political influence from the process.
Initiate a campaign to promote the importance and respect of teachers as part of the learning process.
Evolve the educational system into one that promotes creativity and investigation instead of memorization.
Implement an aggressive English language program so that all graduates will be fully bilingual at graduation.
Develop a civic responsibility course to promote key values and citizen participation in the political process.
Make the government universities accountable for concrete results to justify their budgets.
Make students aware of the employment realities and market saturations for certain careers so they can make informed career choices.
Re-tool vocational training so that it is compatible with the actual needs of the business sector.
Develop and aggressive policy preventive health cares.
Increase fines and stiffer penalties for any farms, industrial or commercial zones and residential projects that do not adequately dispose of their residual wastewater.
Digitize all health care files in the public health care system
Reduce the waiting lists in the public health care system.
Implement a corruption investigation unit that will report to the President about corruption matters in the health care system
Review the pension system for soundness and financial prudence.
Impose stricter sentences and limit the options to reduce the imposed sentences. Put an end to the “criminal paradise”.
Unify all police units in Costa Rica into a single unified command.
Strengthen immigration control and enforcement
Reform the school curriculum to emphasize the value of human life.
Eliminate gender neutrality education from the educational system and public institutions since it contravenes Costa Rican Christian principles.
Repeal the regulations that allow In Vitro Fertilization for being illegal and immoral.
Implement an integral policy which will fight against any type of discrimination.
Support any actions that strengthen the right to life.
Carlos Alvarado (PAC) Full version of his government program (in Spanish)
Promote Multilingual education
Strengthen Sex Education in Schools
Strengthen the education support programs for students to include transport, food and scholarships.
Include flexibility in the school curriculum
Restructure the vocational school training program
Guarantee the funding of the University System by way of a special education fund.
Invest in technology to improve the quality of education.
Implement a progressive tax reform system which includes a worldwide income taxation component. Those that have more will contribute more.
Transform the sales tax into a Value Added Tax (VAT) and add services to the tax.
Adopt the best tax practices developed by OECD
Implement new technologies to reduce tax evasion
Reduce dollarization of the economy and continue with efforts to reverse the dollarization in the financial system.
Generate more employment with a focus on regional development by way of economic clusters that promote national and foreign investment.
Increase the capacity of the Labor Department to conduct labor inspections by implementing technology and hiring more inspectors to ensure compliance with labor laws
Reduce institutional bottlenecks to facilitate investment and facilitate the permitting process.
Continue to promote foreign investment in Costa Rica
Maintain Costa Rica as a world leader in tourism by innovating and strengthening the competitive advantages we have.
Support rural community tourism
Improve the tourism infrastructure and invest in regional airports
Strengthen the Cooperative movement to increase the growth of coops in Costa Rica.
Create the bank of solidarity and development promotion to increase financial access for small businesses.
Strengthen the export promotion offices to increase exports.
Create an angel capital investment program to finance entrepreneurship.
Legalize In Vitro Fertilization
Implement services for reproductive health and the prevention of teenage pregnancy
Adopt national norms about therapeutic abortions
Prioritize the human rights of migrants and apply an immigration policy focused on human rights and not just national security.
Guarantee the rights and optimal conditions of the migrant refugee population of Costa Rica.
Create the Ministry of Development and Human and Social Integration.
Support public – private alliances to develop public works.
Convert the refining company, RECOPE into an alternative energy producer.
Eliminate petroleum and natural gas use in the long term
Prohibit any oil or gas exploration in the country
Convert the vehicle fleet to electricity by 2030
Make Costa Rica carbon neutral by 2021
To create a more efficient government that facilitates making better decisions
Reform the public sector employment based on efficiency and equality
Reform the constitution to implement the separation of church and state
Implement government transparency and open government
Invest in public spaces for use in the Civic Centers for Peace model.
Invest in technology to prevent crime and enter into strategic alliances with local government and private security companies to monitor alarm systems
Implement crime prevention policies to reduce criminality
Impose stricter gun control legislation