Opposition candidate Luis Solis easily won Sunday’s presidential runoff in Costa Rica, an expected result given that his only rival had stopped campaigning a month earlier because he was so far behind in the polls. What gave Solis, a center-leftist, cause to celebrate was a solid voter turnout in an election considered a foregone conclusion. Experts had warned that a low turnout would undermine the legitimacy of his government. In the run-up to the vote, he had appealed to Costa Ricans to cast ballots and set a goal of getting more than 1 million votes. Late Sunday, Costa Rica’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced that with 93 percent of voting stations reporting Solis had 1,258,715 votes, or 77.9 percent support, easily beating ruling party candidate Johnny Araya at 22.1 percent. Araya remained on the ballot even though he suspended his campaign because the country’s constitution does not allow for a candidate to drop out.
After National Liberation Party candidate Johnny Araya announced he was no longer campaigning for president in a second-round vote, many journalists and politicians questioned why a runoff election was necessary at all since his decision effectively gave the presidency to Luis Guillermo Solís of the Citizen Action Party. Costa Rican law prohibits any of the two candidates in a runoff election from stepping aside. The constitution demands that the Costa Rican people vote on April 6. Voters will weigh their options and freely decide who is the best. The decision is theirs to make, and the future belongs to the voters, not the Legislative Assembly or a candidate who steps down. Only the people can make this decision. Candidates can withdraw from the race during a first round, but once entered into a second round, they are legally required to finish the process. This is not a whim or some old, unrevised piece of legislation; it was established after two bitter experiences in the country’s past. The people must vote, and a mandate must be given. Yes, it’s expensive and it may seem unnecessary, but democracy is funny that way.
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.”