By JAVIER CÓRDOBA – Associated Press
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) — President-elect Rodrigo Chaves said Monday his second-round victory was a “revolution” by marginalized communities against Costa Rica’s elites.
The conservative economist, who served briefly as finance minister in the outgoing administration of President Carlos Alvarado, had cast himself as the underdog in the race, noting that his Social Democratic Progress Party had never won at any time. level before this year.
It was also likely a stance the World Bank veteran could only have taken against his rival in Sunday’s vote who embodied Costa Rica’s establishment: José María Figueres, a former president and son of a president in three times.
“The newest party, the party with the fewest resources, the party that has never been in government, not even in the Legislative Assembly … ended up winning in a very difficult campaign,” Chaves said during an interview. ‘a press conference.
“There is a popular outcry to improve the opportunities for those who have benefited least,” Chaves said. He credited these communities for leading him to victory.
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But the powers of the new president could be severely tested when he takes office next month because his party will have only 10 of the 57 seats in the Legislative Assembly.
Benjamin Gedan, deputy director of the Wilson Center, commented on Twitter that Chaves’ victory “is in line with the region’s anti-establishment mood, but runs counter to claims from a new ‘pink tide’ of leaders. of the left in Latin America”.
With 98% of the polling stations, Chaves won 53% of the vote, compared to 47% for Figueres, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal said.
More than 43% of eligible voters did not participate, an unusually low turnout for the country, reflecting a lack of enthusiasm for both candidates.
In his victory speech Sunday night, Chaves called for unity to address issues such as unemployment and a growing budget deficit.
One of his main campaign promises was to reduce the cost of living for Costa Ricans. On Monday, without providing details, he said he would start with the costs of gasoline, rice and electricity.
His inauguration is scheduled for May 8.
Figueres conceded defeat less than an hour after the results began. He had led the first round of voting on February 6, with Chaves second that day. Neither had come close to the 40% of votes needed to avoid a second round.
Figueres, who served as president of Costa Rica from 1994 to 1998, represents the National Liberation Party like his father, three-time president José Figueres Ferrer.
Chaves’ campaign is being investigated by election authorities for allegedly running an illegal parallel fundraising structure. He was also dogged by a sexual harassment scandal that drove him out of the World Bank.
While working at the bank, he was accused of sexual harassment by several women, was eventually demoted and then resigned. He denied the charges.
Last year, the World Bank’s administrative tribunal criticized the way the case was initially handled internally.
The court noted that an internal investigation found that from 2008 to 2013, Chaves ogled, made unwelcome comments about physical appearance, repeated sexual innuendo and made unwelcome sexual advances towards several bank employees. These details were repeated by the bank’s human resources department in a letter to Chaves, but it decided to discipline him for misconduct rather than sexual harassment.
“The facts of this case indicate that (de Chaves’) conduct was sexual in nature and that he knew or should have known that his conduct was unwelcome,” the court wrote. The court also noted that in the proceedings, the bank’s current vice president of human resources testified “that the undisputed facts legally amount to sexual harassment.”
When asked on Monday whether his departure from the World Bank could affect Costa Rica’s access to the international lending institution, Chaves said no and added that he would not discuss the allegations further.
Political analyst Francisco Barahona said the exchange of personal attacks during the campaign led to a lack of voter enthusiasm for the candidates.
“They haven’t elaborated on their proposals to solve the country’s problems,” he said. “The debates did not help motivate the electorate.”
“For a lot of people it’s embarrassing to say they voted for one or the other, and many would rather say they won’t vote for any of the candidates or just won’t vote. “, added Barahona.
While Costa Rica has enjoyed relative democratic stability compared to other countries in the region, the public has grown frustrated with public corruption scandals and high unemployment.
In the February vote, the incumbent president’s party was virtually erased from the political landscape, gaining no seats in the new congress. At the time of that vote, the country was riding a wave of COVID-19 infections, but infections and hospitalizations have since declined significantly.
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