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Why Costa Rica Is Considered Ungovernable

by fiverrtech

The notion that Costa Rica has become ungovernable is a topic that has gained momentum in recent discussions, particularly in light of the country’s political landscape. A detailed analysis of the situation reveals a complex interplay of factors that contribute to this perception, including the country’s electoral system, the distribution of political power, and the challenges inherent in governance under a multipartidist system.

Electoral Vibrancy vs. Governance Challenges

Costa Rica vibrates with optimism and energy during election seasons, with streets filled with hope and the belief that change is possible. However, this optimism often faces a harsh reality post-election, when the elected officials take office. Despite high hopes, the reality of governing a country with a complex and fragmented political landscape becomes apparent. This complexity is rooted in the country’s political history and its system of checks and balances designed to prevent abuses of power but also, inadvertently, complicates governance.

Examples of governability challenges

Legislative Gridlock and Fragmentation: The transition to a multipartidist system has led to legislative gridlock, where no single party often has a clear majority. This fragmentation complicates the process of passing legislation, requiring extensive negotiation and compromise, and can result in legislative paralysis.

Executive Power Limitation: The executive branch, while theoretically holding significant power, faces challenges in implementing its agenda due to the complex system of checks and balances. The president’s ability to enact policies or respond swiftly to challenges is often hindered by the need for legislative approval and the potential for legislative obstructionism.

Opposition Tactics and Parliamentary Obstructionism: The opposition parties may use procedural tactics to stall or block legislation, contributing to a perception of inefficiency and ineffectiveness in governance. This is exemplified by practices such as presenting an excessive number of motions to delay legislative processes.

Complexity of Governance in a Multipartidist System: The requirement for coalition building and the broad ideological spectrum of parties in the legislature introduce significant challenges. Negotiating with multiple parties to pass legislation can be cumbersome and slow, contributing to a perception of ungovernability.

Public Perception and Political Disenchantment: The challenges in governance, combined with the difficulties in achieving significant legislative progress, contribute to public disenchantment with the political system. This disenchantment is further exacerbated by perceptions of corruption and inefficiency among politicians.

Reforms and the Path Forward

The discussion around the perceived ungovernability of Costa Rica often circles back to the need for political and electoral reform. Proposals have ranged from tweaking the existing presidential system to more radical shifts towards semi-presidential or parliamentary systems. These discussions highlight a broader debate about the most effective and democratic way to govern a country that prides itself on its political stability and democratic traditions.


The perception of Costa Rica as ungovernable stems from a complex set of factors, including its political history, the distribution of power, and the challenges of governance in a multipartidist system. While the country’s democratic system has many strengths, including its robust checks and balances and its inclusive electoral system, these same features can also complicate governance. Moving forward, the challenge for Costa Rica will be to find ways to adapt its political system to ensure effective governance while preserving the democratic principles that are a hallmark of its political culture. Potential reforms may require careful consideration and broad consensus to enhance the government’s ability to act decisively and efficiently, thus addressing the concerns of those who currently view the country as ungovernable.

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