Tuesday 3 October 2023

Candidates accuse each other of corruption, shady handling of electoral financing and allegations of sexual harassment

Undecided and swing voters key in Costa Rica’s runoff elections

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QCOSTARICA – On Sunday, April 3, former President Jose Maria Figueres, of Partido Liberacion Nacional (PLN), and former Minister of Finance Rodrigo Chaves, of the recently formed Partido Progreso Social Democrático (PPSD), will face each other.

osé María Figueres Olsen

This week, the accusations of corruption, shady handling of electoral financing and allegations of sexual harassment have taken the spotlight away from the candidates’ proposals.

Neither Figueres (1994-1998) nor economist Chaves were the two candidates with the most votes on February, but neither earned the required 40% of the vote to be declared president.

Rodrigo Chaves
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In an election with a record number of 25 candidates, a clear winner was not expected: Figueres earned 27.3% of the votes and Chaves 16.7%.

Days before Sunday’s vote, the last poll of the Research Center in Political Studies (CIEP) of the University of Costa Rica (UCR), had both candidates in a ‘technical tie’. The survey was carried out between March 24 to 28, in a telephone survey of 1,019 people, shows that Chaves is still in the lead with 41.4% of the decided vote, Figueres is 3.4 points behind with 38%.

The margin of error is 3.1 points.

“There are no significant differences between the candidates, any of the two could be leading at this moment, we do not know by how much, but yes the forces are very even at this moment”, commented the coordinator of the CIEP survey, Ronald Alfaro, to Semanario Universidad.

Meanwhile, the percentage of undecided people continues to increase.

In the last survey of the campaign, 18.1% of the voters survey had yet to decide who to vote for, up from the 16.5% the week before.

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On Sunday, more than 3.5 million Costa Ricans are eligible to cast their votes, to choose the president for the 2022-2026 period.

The final debate

In the last public debate, held Friday night on the Repretel television channel 6, the candidates closed the campaign with an exchange of offenses.

Facing each other on live television, Figueres and Chaves, used the six minutes they were given to exchange attacks. Figueres opened by asking his opponent about his proposals to combat poverty. Chaves responded to Figueres that he has no right to talk about poverty, because he was born “with a golden spoon.”

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“The surname Figueres was great for you, forgive me for saying so. I am not angry, Don José María. There are things that are a monument to hypocrisy, I have been in the Guidos, I am poor, of poor origin, the son of your father’s bodyguard even though you do not have the decency to admit it,” Chaves launched.

In his response, Figueres told his opponent that his government program is a “desparpajo” that lacks specific proposals to alleviate poverty.

And, when Chaves told Figueres that he committed an act of corruption by his consultancy for the Alcatel firm after being president, Figueres counterattacked with the sanction for sexual harassment that the economist was imposed at the World Bank.

The investigations

The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones (TSE) – Supreme Electoral Tribunal – clarified on Friday that the investigations into the financing of the Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN) and the Partido Progreso Social Democrático (PSD) will not conclude before the second round.

The TSE is investigating the trust that financed the campaign of Rodrigo Chaves (PPSD), while it has requested information on the trip by Figueres (PLN) to the Dominican Republic.

Héctor Fernández, Director of the Electoral Registry, said that these inquiries are at an initial stage and that after the investigations, it will be assessed whether an administrative procedure is opened or whether they should be transferred to the judicial process.

Fernández confirmed that the investigation carried out by the TSE will remain open even after the election on Sunday, however, they do not prevent either of the two political groups from participating in the elections.

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