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Last night, local television station Canal 7, held a debate between the top five presidential candidates seeking votes for the February 2 elections. The debate was different than the other debates so far, in that the candidates asked the questions of each other.

Debating the issues were: Johnny Araya, of the Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN), José María Villalta  of the Frente Amplio, Otto Guevara  of the Movimiento Libertario, Luis Guillermo Solís  of the Partido Acción Ciudadana (PAC) and Rodolfo Piza of the Unidad Social Cristiana.

In the end, after reading and listening to all the commentaries of experts, and those posted on the social media, I came to one conclusion: there were no winners and the big loser was the electorate.

The concept of thecandidates, rather than a panel, asking each other questions seemed like a good idea. But in the end all we got – or I got out of it – was brawl of words, with attacks and counter attacks.

At one point, one of the candidates, Villalta, pulled out a quote from Pope Francis.

The blame for the result has to be laid directly with the moderator, Ignacio Santos, who allowed the debate to get out of hand, allowing some candidates to have more opportunity (more air time) than the others.

At one point, an enormous amount of time was dedicated to Araya and Guevara airing out their old laundry between them, all related to Araya’s term as mayor of San José, specifically the alleged salary overpayment and Guevara’s alleged financing irregularities of his 2010 campaign, nothing to do with the issues of today.

At one point Villalta became the third in the bickering, the trio accusing each other of misinformation and scaring voters. Interesting is that the other two newcomers, Piza and Solís, kept to the facts, focusing on accurate and relevant information.

Both Solís and Piza articulated a clear proposal for governing the country, pointing out the advantages and disadvantages and differences.

Shame that netheir Solís and Piza figure in this election, between then having less than half of the decided votes of lowest of the top three. as per the latest CID-Gallup poll.

The absence of restraint candidates, the lack of control by the host, made it a 45 minute cockfight. At one point Villalta looked straight into the camera, emphasizing his point, while responding (bickering) with Araya and Guevara.

If you missed this one, there’s another debate next Sunday.