Friday, April 4, 2014

Costa Rica: Center-Left Presidential Candidate Luís Guillermo Solis Poised To Win National Election

According to Reuters, center-left presidential candidate Luís Guillermo Solís, 55, is expected to cruise to victory in Sunday's run-off election after his ruling party rival quit campaigning in a bizarre development last month.

Solís surprised pollsters by coming in ahead of Johnny Araya, 57, of the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN) and the other candidates in the first round of voting in February.

Although Solís fell short of the 40% support needed to avoid a runoff, he then took a strong lead in opinion polls by channeling resentment over rising inequality and government scandals that have rocked the coffee-producing nation.

Araya was stunned by his fall in the polls and last month abandoned his campaign, setting the stage for Solís' Citizen Action Party (PAC) to win the presidency.

COMMENT: The Constitution requires that Araya remain on the ballot, so theoretically he could win, but many voters are eager to toss out President Laura Chinchilla's scandal-ridden ruling party and Araya's withdrawal from public events further boosted Solís' chances.

Sadly, the government of incumbent President Laura Chinchilla will go done as one of the unpopular head of state in decades. 

An academic and former diplomat who has never before been elected to office, Solís has pledged to improve infrastructure, overhaul health care and stamp out corruption.

Araya, a former governor of San José, lost ground with voters over a series of gaffes during the campaign, such as underestimating the price of milk in an interview.

A prosecutor's probe into allegations of abuse of authority and embezzlement while Araya was mayor of San José also dampened his electoral appeal.

A University of Costa Rica survey last month showed Solís had more than 64% support with Araya trailing by 21%. Within hours, Araya said he would no longer campaign.

If elected President, Solís will face a divided Congress and grapple with growing government debt that totals more than 50% of Costa Rica's gdp.

Moody's Investors Service, which rates Costa Rica a cut above speculative grade, revised its outlook for the country to negative from stable in September.

Solís also has said he hopes to attract new businesses to set up shop in Costa Rica's booming free-trade zones, which have enticed the likes of Intel Corp and Hewlett-Packard. 

Solís graduated from both the University of Michigan and Tulane University.

A writer and editorial writer, Solís has published numerous essays and books about national and international affairs. In the 1990s, he wrote for LA REPUBLICA, a daily newspaper based in San José.

While still at the University of Costa Rica, Solís joined the National Liberation Party (PLN) in 1977.   

Solís was an adviser to Oscar Arias in the Foreign Ministry; Arias would later win a Nobel Peace Prize. Solís served as Director of International Relations for the PLN.