Luis Fernando Mendoza Jiménez, 51, from the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN) was elected president of the Legislative Assembly on Wednesday, replacing outgoing President Víctor Emilio Granados from the Access Without Exclusion Party (PASE).
Mendoza obtained the votes of 31 of the 57 lawmakers in an election that was characterized by division of opposition parties, as results showed several lawmakers voted for themselves rather than candidates presented by their own parties.
María Eugenia Venegas from the Citizen Action Party placed second with 11 votes.
Mendoza briefly addressed the press minutes after his election and said his appointment was “truly an honor.”
“One of my main objectives is to return this Assembly back to the dialogue and debate that has been lost mainly because of obstructionist regulations,” he said. He added that he will push for construction of a new building for the Legislative Assembly, a project lawmakers say is badly needed, but one that has failed to advance in the past year.
The new president came as a last-minute candidate proposed by President Laura Chinchilla, after PLN lawmakers failed to agree on a candidate.
PLN lawmakers met late into Monday night to debate supporting Luis Gerardo Villanueva or re-electing Granados.
Mendoza has received little media exposure as a politician, but has, as he noted, “extensive experience in legislative work, having worked for 17 years as an adviser to other lawmakers.”
He is a political science graduate from the University of Costa Rica, and has studied economics at the same university.
Evangelical lawmaker Carlos Avendaño Calvo, from the Costa Rican Renovation Party, was elected vice president with 29 votes. Avendaño said he will work “to build bridges to connect the various points of views in this shared directorate.”
After a lunch break, Martín Monestel from PASE received 29 votes to become the first secretary, and Annie Saborío Mora from the PLN was elected second secretary with 32 votes.
Justo Orozco from the Costa Rican Renovation Party obtained the first pro-secretary post with 29 votes, and Elibeth Venegas Villalobos, also from PLN, won the second pro-secretary with the vote of 29 of her colleagues.
Elections for the new directorate were held without incident, as voting in previous elections has been marked by disagreements between ruling PLN and minority parties in order to obtain votes.