Costa Rica Voters Send Araya, Solis to Second Round Vote

Voters in Costa Rica sent former San Jose Mayor Johnny Araya and opposition leader Luis Guillermo Solis to an April 6 runoff after neither candidate won enough votes to win the presidency in the first round.

Solis of the Citizen’s Action Party, or PAC, had 31 percent of ballots cast yesterday, while Araya of the ruling National Liberation Party, or PLN, had 29.6 percent, according to the election tribunal. Voters also chose all 57 members of Congress. The breakdown of those results aren’t yet available.

Corruption scandals, historically high unemployment and a debate over a fiscal package to rein-in a widening budget deficit in the $45 billion economy undermined the government of President Laura Chinchilla, who wasn’t eligible for re-election and didn’t campaign publicly with Araya.

“These results show us how the Costa Rican state has lost legitimacy because it’s not working properly, because it has sometimes lacked transparency, because it’s been unable to reduce poverty,” Araya told supporters after polls closed yesterday. “But I’m here to say that we are the most effective instrument to return legitimacy to the state, our team, this party.”

Araya, 56, has a political pedigree: his uncle Luis Alberto Monge was Costa Rica’s president from 1982-1986 and his brother Rolando lost a bid for the presidency in 2002.

Political ‘Tsunami’

Solis, a 55-year-old university professor and former diplomat, will be leading his party to its first runoff since being created in 2000 by a group of PLN dissenters.

“A new Costa Rica was born today,” Solis told supporters chanting “No more chorizos,” slang for corruption, in San Jose yesterday. “The wave that was rising has become a tsunami that has shattered traditional politics in this country forever.”

Costa Rica’s dollar bonds due in 2025 were little changed, with the yield rising about 3 basis points, or 0.03 percentage point, to 6.03 percent at 1:05 p.m. New York time.

This year’s runoff will be the second in Costa Rica’s history, after the 2002 election between the PLN and the Social Christian Unity Party. If Araya wins, it would be the first time the same party would rule for three consecutive four-year terms.

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