Costa Rica’s ruling party candidate Johnny Araya on Wednesday abandoned his presidential campaign a month before a runoff, a move that appeared to guarantee victory for leftist former diplomat Luis Guillermo Solis. Araya, of the ruling centrist National Liberation Party (PLN), said he would no longer campaign, though under the constitution his name will remain on the ballot. He said he had made the decision after polls showed him way behind Solis. A favorite to win before the first round of voting in February, Araya has been beset by voter resentment over government corruption scandals under President Laura Chinchilla and rising inequality. Solis scored a surprise win in that vote, and has stretched his lead dramatically in opinion polls. “There is an increasing will to replace the party in government,” Araya told a news conference, declining to take questions. “I will abstain from any electoral activity.”
A former mayor of San Jose, Araya, 56, has faced criticism from equality-conscious voters for gaffes like underestimating the price of milk in an interview.
The national prosecutor’s probe of allegations of abuse of power and embezzlement also dampened his appeal after Chinchilla sparked outrage by accepting flights on a private jet despite laws barring public officials from accepting sizable gifts.
“The PLN needs to really think hard about the corruption issue,” said political analyst Francisco Barahona.
A defeat for Araya’s PLN would remove the party from power after two consecutive terms, or eight years, in office.