SAN JOSÉ, Costa Rica (AP) — Costa Ricans elected a new president Sunday in an election with no clear favorite among the 25 candidates, amid a COVID-19 outbreak that raised fears of low turnout.
Voters were also electing a new National Assembly, days after the country’s prosecutor’s office requested to lift the immunity of outgoing President Carlos Alvarado so that he could be prosecuted on charges related to collecting personal information from citizens. You cannot run in these elections.
A large part of the electorate remained undecided in the days before the elections in the Central American country.
If no candidate obtains at least 40% of the votes, a second round will be held on April 3 between the two most voted. No candidate came close to that threshold in recent polls.
Costa Ricans are frustrated by high unemployment, recent public corruption scandals and another surge in coronavirus infections, but no candidate has channeled that discontent.
Fabricio Alvarado, who lost to Carlos Alvarado in the second round four years ago, is running this time for his New Republic party.
José María Figueres is the candidate of the National Liberation Party, founded by his father, José Figueres Ferrer, who presided over the country three times in the 1940s, 1950s and 1970s.
The younger Figueres was president of Costa Rica between 1994 and 1998, but has been questioned over a $900,000 salary he received as a consultant from the telecommunications company Alcatel after his presidency, when the firm was competing for a contract with the state power company. No charges were ever filed against him and he has denied any wrongdoing.
Among the applicants is another experienced politician, Lineth Saborío, from the Christian Social Union. Saborío was vice president of the country in the government of Abel Pacheco between 2002 and 2006.
Previously, he headed the Judicial Investigation Organism, which oversees criminal investigations in Costa Rica.
Adding to voter apathy, turnout seemed uncertain as new COVID-19 cases hover around 6,000 daily. One election official urged infected people not to vote, though others acknowledged there was no way to prevent people from exercising their constitutional right to vote.
Polls were expected to open from 6 a.m. to 6 p.m. on Sunday. Costa Ricans residing abroad voted on Saturday at the country’s consulates.