Former President Oscar Arias came out ahead of his former planning minister Wednesday as the unofficial winner in the historically close Feb. 5 presidential elections, with a lead of just over 18,000 votes – or 1.1% – of the 1.6 million votes cast.
Arias, a Nobel Peace Prize laureate and candidate of the National Liberation Party (PLN), obtained 40.9% of the votes while Ottón Solís, of the Citizen Action Party (PAC), obtained 38.9%, according to unofficial calculations of vote counts posted on the Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) Web site.
However, the Tribunal will not officially declare a winner until it resolves all complaints received about the manual recount process, most of which came from Citizen Action, said Tribunal president Oscar Fonseca, who has maintained this stance throughout the 14 days of the manual ballot scrutiny.
Arias’ mere 3,250-vote lead over Solís when the Tribunal announced preliminary counts received from precincts Feb. 6 has made this year’s manual recount crucial in determining the winner (TT, Feb. 10).
Since the recount began, the Tribunal has been releasing results from precincts daily in chart form, rather than adding up votes for each candidate, and posting thecharts on its Web site for anyone interested to do the math.
Despite televised pleas Solís made Tuesday night to the Tribunal reiterating his party’s concerns and asking that officials recount 712 precincts he says show serious inconsistencies, the Tribunal released its final figures after declaring the recount complete Wednesday afternoon.
Arias said he has faith in the Tribunal and will continue to wait patiently until official results are announced.
“We hope the Tribunal takes all the time it needs to hear the complaints that have been made of possible irregularities,” Arias told The Tico Times.
Arias’ supporters, however, aren’t waiting to congratulate him.Various presidential candidates visited Arias’ house in Pavas, west of San José, Wednesday and yesterday to congratulate him on his apparent win –including Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) candidate Ricardo Toledo, Homeland First candidate Juan José Vargas, National Union candidate José Manuel Echandi and Libertarian Movement candidate Otto Guevara.
Liberation party delegates from all over the country and groups of citizen supporters lined up outside Arias’ residence with the party’s green-and-white flags in hand, Liberation spokesman Luis Fernando Villalobos told The Tico Times yesterday.
Several U.S. newspapers, including the Los Angeles Times, have called to interview Arias, Villalobos said, but the ex-President has insisted he won’t comment until the Tribunal makes its official announcement.
Solís Alleges Irregularities
Solís’ televised speech Tuesday repeated inconsistencies members of his party have been voicing since the recount began. PAC has filed almost 600 complaints before the Tribunal alleging irregularities in the counting process, mostly concerning lack of a padron registro, or official list people must sign to vote.
In particular, Solís pointed to 712 precincts deemed “inconsistent” by the Tribunal, in which he said 100 lacked a voter list. He also pointed to 5,000 ballots that had “disappeared,” some of which were later discovered in trash dumps, he said. A PAC statement also cited 26 precincts in which unused ballots were not returned to the Tribunal and were “lost.”
“For the tranquility and social peace of Costa Rica, we ask the Tribunal to again scrutinize, not just count, these 712 precincts,” the PAC candidate said from his headquarters in San Pedro, east of San José, asking Arias to “accompany us in the fight for democracy” by insisting that the Tribunal take more time to recount the ballots.
Arias, who was President of Costa Rica from 1986-1990, told journalists Wednesday at a ceremony announcing the new bishop of the Caribbean province of Limón that he didn’t like his opponent’s tone.
“There’s no point … in losing on the court and then wanting to win at the table,” Arias said. “If I had known on Feb. 5 that I lost, I would have picked up the phone and called to congratulate the winner.”
Solís also attended the ceremony in Limón, and, despite contention, the two candidates greeted each other with a hug.
Tribunal Magistrate Luis Antonio Sobrado responded to Solís’ pleas in a speech to journalists shortly after the PAC candidate’s Tuesday announcement aired. Sobrado addressed and denied each claim of irregularity.
“The recount we’ve been working on for 12 days has been under the norms and standards established by the legislation more than 50 years ago,” Sobrado said. “We’re addressing these claims … with the objectivity, transparency and professionalism of our electoral judges. We do not stray from these
Voter lists were missing in only 18 precincts, he said, and in these cases an alternative document was used to prove how many people voted.
Liberation spokesman Otto Fonseca said PAC’s complaints are a just a strategy to stall the process.
“It’s obvious there was intention to delay the count,” he said. “They’re looking to discredit the Tribunal and discredit Arias’ government if he wins.”
All five Citizen Action recount observers, called fiscales, along with as many as 20 fiscales from the Libertarian Movement, National Rescue, Patriotic Union and National Integration parties as well as others protesting outside the Tribunal building, donned black ribbons Wednesday during the final hours of the recount to show their discontent with the Tribunal’s “attitude of indifference” in handling the complaints of irregularities, PAC recount observer Lucy Atencio told The Tico Times yesterday.
Tribunal workers will begin counting votes for legislators today, according to TSE president Oscar Fonseca, while they work to resolve the remaining complaints over the presidential ballot recount as efficiently as possible. He did not, however, offer an estimated date of when the Tribunal might declare a winner of this past election – the closest in decades.