Costa Rica begins the counting of votes to know who will be its next president | International

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With unusual friction and apathy in the traditionally calm democracy of Costa Rica, the electoral day ended this Sunday to choose who will preside over the Republic from May 8. Costa Ricans voted in a climate of political unease and questioning of the two candidates competing in the second round, the economist with anti-system speech Rodrigo Chaves and former president José María Figueres.

The high level of uncertainty and hostility between the two sides lasted until the closing of more than 2,100 polling stations at 6:00 p.m. local time, after a day in which the most enthusiastic supporters of both candidates tried to counteract the discouragement of most of the population reflected in the polls, as an indicator of an abstention rate that could exceed that of the first round, of 40%. The precise data will only be known with the final results, with a first report announced for 8 in the afternoon.

“More than an electoral party, it has been like a cockfight,” said former president Óscar Arias, Nobel Peace Prize winner in 1987, despite having expressed his support for Figueres, his co-partisan and internal adversary for decades. However, he said in the morning that a victory for Chaves, the anti-system economist who took advantage in the polls, was also possible. The surprise candidate won the first round of February and managed to rebound in the polls to practically a technical tie despite knowing that he had been sanctioned for sexual harassment when he worked at the World Bank, a case similar to the one attributed to Arias in 2019 by complaints from two women, who later withdrew their demands.

Among the supporters of Chaves, the messages against Figueres for “corrupt” and “representing those who have us bad” prevailed, accused the young Luis Diego López, wearing a shirt with the slogan “the party is over”, one of the slogans of Chavez’s campaign. From his Social Democratic Progress Party (PPSD), debuting in an election, the candidate promises to remove “the powerful groups” from power and bring the people there.

Similar messages were addressed by a group to Figueres when he went to vote at 7 in the morning in a town called San Cristóbal Sur, on the outskirts of San José, before visiting the tomb of his father José Figueres, who ruled Costa Rica three times. in the 20th century. “It’s been a very tough campaign,” he said as he left. At another time, the reproaches went against the journalists who followed Chaves, shouting “rogue press”, in tune with the candidate’s remarks against adverse journalistic publications.

A woman in her 70s wrapped in a large PLN flag was hanging around her polling station in a rural area of ​​Alajuela, west of the Central Valley. “I don’t know if I’m the only one who is proud of my vote for Figueres, but that’s the problem. Many are going to support him because they know the danger that Chaves is, but they do not express it openly and it gives the feeling that they are more, “she told El PAÍS, although she preferred not to reveal his name.

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The latest poll, published five days before the election, gave Chaves an advantage, although he has reduced his margin over the former president to less than five points. Decisive will be the final decision of the voters who at the time of that poll still did not know who to support, 18% according to opinion polls that indicated “anguish” and “sadness” as predominant feelings for more than half of the electorate.

“I have hardly sold anything,” lamented Ulises Carranza, an ice cream vendor outside a voting center in Alajuela, the city located 20 kilometers west of San José. In the afternoon, to make matters worse, it rained in a good part of the country. “Before, people came to vote and were still hesitating (discussing), but people come to comply and want to leave quickly. It’s not pretty anymore because there’s no enthusiasm with those candidates,” said the man in the morning. He was going to vote in the afternoon, but he still didn’t know for whom. Or so he replied.

Given the low support that the candidates arouse, the silent vote could be decisive, analysts warned during the day. Meanwhile, in the streets there was an apparently duller atmosphere than in the first round on February 6. “There have been no crowds. We have not had complaints about long lines, ”said Héctor Fernández, spokesman for the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), at noon, although he warned that the body does not monitor participation.

The day revealed hubbub in the streets among Chaves supporters, confident of striking a blow at traditional politics, although the green-and-white flag of the old National Liberation Party (PLN) was also visible, represented by former president José María Figueres, who finished the campaign presenting himself as the card of moderation despite the high popular rejection against him.

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