The first round of the elections in Costa Rica in early February opened the electoral “super marathon” in Latin America. Traditionally, Costa Rica has always been considered a bulwark of stability in the Latin American region. In this state, for decades, strong democratic forces seemed to dominate. In a number of international ratings on the level of lack of corruption, freedom of the press or the quality of life of the population, the country is mostly far ahead of its neighbors. But when even in the “politically predictable” Costa Rica in the first round of the presidential elections the “militant evangelist”, who until recently was a political outsider, won, is a landmark event. What results did the second round of the presidential elections in Costa Rica, which took place on the 1st of April bring? What will the Costa Ricans expect in the next four years? And how will the regional configuration of forces change?
The results of the first round of the elections in Costa Rica clearly demonstrated what to expect in the region. Beginning to emerge as a new state and regional trends. As most regional governments proclaimed, democracy in Latin America was established everywhere, especially in comparison with many other regions. However, at more detailed consideration here also signs of “decomposition” and “heterogeneity” are noticeable. In the past two years, discontent with the ruling regimes of voters has reached a high level. An example of this was the municipal and parliamentary elections in El Salvador in 2017, where, despite the mandatory nature of participation in the elections, 58% of voters preferred to stay at home.
The rejection of established traditional parties, the main cause of which were numerous corruption scandals, illustrates the general trend in Latin America. Public discontent in this regard clearly showed, with the example of Brazil and Peru, that corruption is no longer perceived as a minor offense. Scandals of this kind completely undermined the credibility of democratic organizations. Accordingly, many candidates in the upcoming elections come up with counter-projects and alternative slogans in relation to the political mainstream. The polarization of political forces is getting higher, and debates and discussions are increasingly lined up in heightened tones. The ruling parties hardly manage to develop and present a convincing reform program. All these tendencies also concern the “left camp”, which in recent years had to suffer a significant defeat in the elections, starting with Argentina, or even be deposed by the right-wing majority in the parliament, as in the case of Brazil.
Widely known right-wing parties were also affected by “internecine” scandals and internal conflicts. Turning to the general regional panorama, in the congresses the right-wing mostly do not have their own majority, which makes it difficult to implement their government programs. But it is worth noting that the progressive camp has not yet been able to take advantage of this. In addition, the left-centrist political field is often internally disunited and does not find anything in common for cooperation.
Returning to Costa Rica, in the first round on the 4th of February of 2018, Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz was supported by 24,9% of voters and was in the lead in the race. His opponent, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, won in February 21,6% of voters and took the second place. According to Costa Rican legislation, if none of the presidential contenders succeeded in gaining more than 40% of the votes, then the two leading candidates who received the majority of electoral votes pass to the second round of voting. The one who can achieve a simple majority in the second round, becomes the president of the country.
On the 1st of April, in the second round of the elections of the left-centrist politician, the representative of the ruling party “Acción Ciudadana”, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, was able to take revenge and defeat the leader of the first round – conservative Fabricio Alvarado Muñoz. By the way, in Costa Rica, the loser is not only a former journalist, but also a famous singer. Quesada, in his electoral campaign, announced the legalization of same-sex marriages, and also expressed concern that then Costa Rica would be perceived as a tolerant country. The leader scored about 60,8% of the votes (to date, after processing 95% of the polling stations), which means that his victory was more impressive than predicted in the pre-election polls of the population. For his opponent voted 39,2% of citizens. The 38-year-old president will be the youngest leader of the state in the modern history of Costa Rica. But the new vice president of Costa Rica for the first time in history will be a black politician – Epsy Campbell. The elected head of state will start his duties on the 8th of May for the period of four years.
The results of the presidential elections in Costa Rica, contrary to the results of the first round and the pre-election polls of the population, led to a left-centrist policy, which means that the forecast of the final decline of the “left” regimes in the region widely spread in the international media is still an exaggeration. Rightly, a number of Latin American countries (in particular, Argentina, Chile and Brazil) came to power with right-wing politicians, and many left-wing regimes (for example, in Venezuela and Cuba) are experiencing an acute crisis. However, it is still too early to assert about the threat of the process, which many Latin Americanists call the right turn of the region.
A number of analysts are inclined to think that Latin America has been hit by a crisis of not leftist ideas, but leftist regimes that for a long time have not resolved a number of issues, in particular, those related to the implementation, the guarantee of human rights and corruption. According to this idea, the leftist ideology in Latin America is still popular and will be able to remain for a long time.
The main regional rhetoric question still remains: Has there been a right turn in Latin America? With a modern regional configuration, it is not possible to answer it unambiguously. Speaking generally about Latin America, at the present time the “left” are shifting to greater pragmatism, to the realization of the need to use market mechanisms. On the other hand, on the “right” flank, one begins to accept that it is impossible to leave the underprivileged strata “to the mercy of fate”, while social spending is more likely to be economic costs rather than costs. Today, many experts are inclined to believe that the “left-right” orientation in its classical sense is already outdated, not only with respect to the Latin American region, but also with respect to the integrity of all political analysis.