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Supporters of newly elected President Carlos Alvarado Quesada cheer after polls closed during the runoff, San Jose, Costa Rica, April 1, 2018 (AP photo by Arnulfo Franco).

Can Costa Rica’s New President Restore Voters’ Faith in Mainstream Politics?

Friday, April 6, 2018

On April 1, Costa Ricans returned to the polls to elect a new president in a runoff that polling suggested would be one of the closest races in their country’s history. Numerous analysts described the election as a battle between progressive and conservative values, as evangelicals are becoming more prominent politically in Costa Rica. In the end, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, a novelist and former labor minister from the center-left Citizens’ Action Party, defied the pre-election predictions to soundly defeat Fabricio Alvarado Munoz, an evangelical singer and pastor, by more than 20 points.

It wasn’t an easy road to victory for the candidate of the governing Citizens’ Action Party, which rose to power in 2014 on an anti-corruption platform. President Luis Guillermo Solis’ administration got embroiled in a corruption scandal last year involving loans for cement imports that ultimately led to the resignation of the attorney general and the arrest of senior management at the Bank of Costa Rica. The scandal contributed to an anti-establishment mood that catapulted outsider candidates from smaller parties into the spotlight. Among them was Alvarado Munoz, who was the surprise winner in the first round with nearly 25 percent of the vote. ...

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