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PoliticsCosta Rica

Costa Rica: Chaves wins presidential vote

April 4, 2022

Former Finance Minister Rodrigo Chaves is set to be Costa Rica's next president after a scandal-tainted runoff vote. His opponent, former President Jose Maria Figueres, has conceded defeat.

Presidential candidate Rodrigo Chaves pumps his fist after casting his ballot at a polling station
Chaves, an anti-establishment economist, was seen as the maverick candidate in the raceImage: Carlos Gonzalez/AP Photo/picture alliance

Right-wing candidate and former Finance Minister Rodrigo Chaves won Costa Rica's runoff presidential election on Sunday, a preliminary vote tally showed.

The anti-establishment economist garnered around 52.9% of the vote, according to preliminary partial results published by the country's electoral tribunal.

His centrist opponent, former President Jose Maria Figueres, was seen securing 47.1% of the vote.

Shortly after the initial results were announced, Figueres conceded defeat.

Costa Rica's presidential vote comes amid a growing economic crisis, and citizens are frustrated by recent public corruption scandals, another surge of COVID-19 infections and poor economic conditions. 

Two scandal-tainted presidential contenders

Both candidates managed to beat off rival contenders to reach the final stage of the presidential polls despite previous scandals clouding their campaigns. 

Chaves is from the right-wing Social Democratic Progress Party and at one point had been minister of finance. He has been investigated for sexual harassment during his time as a senior official at the World Bank and was demoted from his position. Chaves has also focused on the economy and job creation.

Costa Rica's presidential candidate Rodrigo Chaves of the Social Democratic Progress Party
Costa Rica's presidential candidate Rodrigo Chaves has served as finance minister and is slightly ahead of his opponent in opinion pollsImage: Mayela Lopez/REUTERS

"The urgent themes to address are the ones causing discomfort and suffering to the people," Chaves said, adding that among the key issues were "first the lack of jobs. Secondly the cost of living."

Figueres, who represents the National Liberation Party, was president of the country from 1994 to 1998 and has been investigated for allegedly accepting $900,000 (€814,000) from French firm Alcatel. Figueres has focused on the economy in his campaign.

Presidential candidate Jose Maria Figueres greets supporters
Presidential candidate Jose Maria Figueres served as president between 1994 and 1998Image: Mayela Lopez/REUTERS

"In the economic agenda, unemployment is the most important, the creation of employment opportunities is the priority," Figueres said.

Costa Rica witnessing worst recession in decades

Costa Rica is experiencing its worst recession in four decades brought on by the global pandemic.

Unemployment sat at around 14.4% in 2021 and there is a high level of inequality. About 23% of the Costa Rican population lives in poverty.  

rs, kb/wd (AFP, Reuters, EFE)