A left-leaning former diplomat edged ahead in Costa Rica’s presidential election on Sunday, riding a wave of disgust at government corruption to get within reach of wresting power from the centrist government in an April run-off. Luis Guillermo Solis, an academic who has never been elected to office, had a slim lead over ruling party candidate Johnny Araya despite trailing in pre-election polls and early vote returns. Araya was seen as the front-runner ahead of the vote, but his campaign was hurt by corruption scandals that plagued President Laura Chinchilla’s administration. Solis, who ran on an anti-corruption ticket, won 30.9 percent support on Sunday compared to 29.6 percent for Araya with returns in from around 82 percent of polling centers.
Left-wing lawmaker Jose Maria Villalta was in third place with 17.2 percent. His supporters could help carry Solis to victory in the run-off against Araya, although votes from a host of smaller parties who commanded around a quarter of the tally on Sunday will also be fought over.
A Solis victory in the run-off would mark another triumph for center-left parties which have gained ground in much of Latin America in recent years.
“Costa Rica’s time has come,” Solis said with a wry expression as his supporters cheered to the blare of music on Sunday night. “From coast to coast, the rising wave has become a great tsunami that has washed away traditional politics forever. Araya, 56, promised to reduce poverty and painted his leftist rivals as radicals who are a threat to Central America’s second-largest economy.