National Liberation Party (PLN) presidential candidate Johnny Araya has inched up in the polls as his rivals start to cannibalize one another’s support, according to the latest CID-Gallup poll published Tuesday.
The PLN candidate gained ground against his chief rival, José María Villalta of the Broad Front Party. Araya rose slightly to 39 percent among likely voters who already have decided on a candidate, up 2 percent from his 37 percent support in the previous Dec. 18, 2013 Gallup poll.
Villalta’s support dropped 23 percent among likely voters, attracting only 26 percent compared to his campaign high of 32 percent in the December poll.
Araya may be consolidating his lead, but he is still short – albeit by a hair – of the 40 percent needed to win the Feb. 2 election outright. If no candidate wins the magic 40 percent, a runoff election will be held on April 6.
Some 15 percent of likely voters are still undecided or did not respond to the survey.
After the spike in support for Villalta in the Dec. 18 poll, Araya and other candidates attacked the progressive Broad Front Party candidate, comparing him unfavorably to the late Venezuelan leader Hugo Chávez and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega.
The same scare campaign suggested that Villalta, who has criticized the opening of Costa Rican markets under agreements like the U.S.-Central America-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement and other neoliberal policies of previous Liberation administrations, would jeopardize service industry jobs, such as international call centers, and export-driven industries.
The remaining leading candidates, Otto Guevara of the Libertarian Movement Party, Luis Guillermo Solís of Citizen Action Party and Rodolfo Piza of Social Christian Unity Party, have stagnated at 18 percent, 7 percent, and 5 percent, respectively.
Despite a strong showing during recent debates and on social media, Solís has yet to break 10 percent.
During a debate on Sunday, Villalta asked Solís if PAC, another party critical of neoliberal development policies, would support the Broad Front Party in a runoff.
Solís’ response that he was generally in agreement with the need to change the direction of the country from neoliberal orthodoxy set off rumors that the parties were in a formal alliance.
The PAC candidate took to social media and the airwaves Tuesday morning to deny any alliance and set his sights on Villalta: “I want to win,” Solís told popular radio host Amelia Rueda.
CID-Gallup’s poll surveyed 1,215 Costa Rican from across the country between Jan. 8 and Jan. 13, with a margin of error of 3.25 percent.