QCOSTARICA – A new modality by Costa Rica’s politicians is for legislators to turn their backs on their political party and declare themselves independent after taking their seat in the Legislative Assembly, some almost immediately, while others at some point during their four year term.
In some cases, legislators-elect announce their break from the party even before taking their seat.
Preventing a legislator from declaring independence and thereby losing the party a representative in parliament, is the objective of a bill that legislator Gustavo Viales of the Partido Liberacion Nacional (PLN) presented to the current Legislative Assembly, whose mandate runs to May 1.
The idea of the Verdiblanco (PLN legislator) is that if a person decides to resign from the party, the seat will automatically go to the political group.
“I present this proposal because we believe that the political party system is weakened and handcuffed in circumstances such as the one described, where a person was nominated by a certain group before the electorate,” Viales said.
Legislators of Costa Rica
For context, in Costa Rica, according to current legislation, it is not possible for a citizen to be elected as an independent legislator, they must have the representation of a political party.
After being elected, however, an elected legislator can separate from the parliamentary faction of that party and serve as an independent, however, they cannot do so to avail themselves to join another legislative faction.
Becoming an independent legislator is in the Political Constitution of Costa Rica, in which legislators, like any citizen, have freedom of association and cannot be forced to remain in a specific political party.
During the 2018-2022 legislative period some 15 legislators left their parties.
Paola Vega, Shirley Díaz, Ivonne Acuña, Zoila Volio and Jonathan Prendas, are some of the legislators who during this legislative period resigned from their respective parties to form a new bloc or declare themselves independent.
Giving their personal support in a “bloc” or individually to parties that were not elected, in accordance with the regulations, constitutes a personal affiliation, and it does not imply that the ‘blocs” have representation as a parliamentary faction.
Requirements to become a legislator
Legislators in Costa Rica hold office for four years and cannot be reelected successively.
There are only three requirements to apply for the position:
- Being a practicing citizen;
- Be Costa Rican by birth, or by naturalization with ten years of residence in the country after having obtained nationality;
- Be at least twenty years old.