Skip to comments.Costa Rica: Center-Right candidate wins, Portugal: center-right coalition sworn in
Posted on 04/07/2002 8:57:14 PM PDT by StopDemocratsDotCom
Costa Rica elected Abel Pacheco as its new president on Sunday in an election that made history as the country's first runoff and as the lowest voter turnout. With more than 90 percent of the vote counted, 68-year-old Pacheco, a psychiatrist, poet and former television commentator, had 58 percent of the vote compared with Rolando Araya's 42 percent.
"I am very thankful to the people, those who supported the party, those who worked and organized," Pacheco of the ruling Social Christian Unity Party said shortly after Araya called to congratulate him.
The runoff was set up by a Feb. 3 election, in which upstart third-party candidate Otton Solis didn't get enough votes to make the second round, but no candidate won the 40 percent needed for election.
Many voters were disappointed that Solis didn't get enough votes in the February election to make it to the runoff. Solis, of the Citizens' Action Party, sought to break up the country's traditional two-party system, in place since 1948.
In the February contest, 31 percent of eligible voters stayed home. In Sunday's election nearly 40 percent of the country's 2.28 million voters didn't go to the polls, preliminary results showed.
Oscar Fonseca, president of the Supreme Election Tribunal, called the low turnout "a serious illness hiding in our democracy."
Reflecting voter discontent, Solis refused to vote for either of the two main-party candidates Sunday, and cast a blank ballot.
"We can't continue voting for the lesser of two evils," he said.
Pacheco's folksy, flowery speaking style contrasted with the staid, stolid discourse of Araya, a 54-year-old chemical engineer and career politician with the opposition National Liberation Party.
Pacheco's distinctive personality was enough to tip the balance. "I'm doing this for the poor people," Pacheco said Sunday before voting.
Araya, meanwhile, said "I'm very optimistic, and I hope God will illuminate our people."
Although they say otherwise, Pacheco and Araya share similar visions for Costa Rica, which bases its economy on the high-tech industry and tourism focusing on the country's stunning beaches, mountains and jungles.
The country also enjoys a higher standard of living and domestic peace than its Central American neighbors. Both candidates oppose privatization of state-run industries.
Pacheco has promised to protect farmers, modify free trade agreements, and work with a divided Congress to pass stalled government initiatives.
Araya has promised to reform the educational system, protect the country's lush tropical forests and help farmers.
Solis captured the imagination of a growing middle class increasingly dissatisfied with President Miguel Angel Rodriguez's promises to reduce the country's large internal debt, increase foreign investment and create jobs with decent salaries. Rodriguez is prohibited by law from seeking a second, four-year term.
- Portugal's president on Saturday swore in the new center-right coalition government of Prime Minister Jose Durao Barroso, who has promised to revive the country's economy by cutting corporate taxes and the government deficit.
Durao Barroso holds a slim majority of support in the 230-seat parliament after elections last month, with his own Social Democratic Party's 105 legislators and the 14 seats of the allied conservative Popular Party. The Popular Party has been given three positions in the cabinet.
Portugal last year had 4.3 percent inflation the second highest rate in the European Union (news - web sites). The budget deficit was 2.2 percent of the gross domestic product, while worker productivity was the lowest and illiteracy the highest in the EU.
An economic slump turned the nation's 8.5 million voters against the governing Socialist Party, and Durao Barroso made fixing the country's economic problems the central theme in his election campaign.
He promised to cut corporate taxes from 30 percent to 20 percent, privatize state-owned companies and hand some state health care responsibilities to the private sector.
The Popular Party broadly agrees with these policies but is more skeptical about further deepening of ties with the EU.
Give it nine months.
...didn't make the runoff.