After a volatile and uncertain election season and with a huge percentage of undecideds coming into the final stretch, we simply don’t know much about what is going to unfold tonight in Costa Rica – except that it’s gonna be interesting, folks. As soon as the polls close at 6 p.m., tune in here as we follow the evening’s developments with bated breath.
11:24 pm: As Fabricio Alvarado gives his partway-to-victory speech, following that of his newly minted opponent, Carlos Alvarado, it is hard to believe how much this race changed in its final days. Fabricio – the candidates will have to pardon our use of their first names in what will be a very confusing two months to come – was sixth in the CIEP-UCR poll as recently as December, and surged to the lead following the Inter-American Human Rights Court’s ruling on gay marriage and his fierce opposition. Carlos was fifth in that same poll, and surged to second in the final days as those famously undecided voters made up their minds.
There is much more to say, but for now we’ll say goodnight. We’ll all need our rest for what’s ahead in the next eight weeks before Round 2 takes place on Easter Sunday.
9:48 pm: With 68.3 percent reporting, Fabricio Alvarado holds the lead at 25.2 percent, Carlos Alvarado looks increasingly solid at second with 21.1 percent, and Antonio Alvarez Desanti has 19 percent.
If these tendencies hold, this could be seen as the definitive confirmation that Costa Rica’s traditional bipartisan structure is a thing of the past. It is also important to note that no matter what, the next president will not have a majority in the Legislative Assembly, and if a Renovation-PAC second round does take place, the next president will not even have the largest number of legislators (Liberation is in the lead in the legislature with 17 seats).
9:20 pm: “It’s going to be a culture war election,” says political science professor Fabián Borges, looking ahead at the second round. “I guess Costa Rica is officially an advanced democracy where we fight over culture and identity more than the economy.” (This, at a time when the Costa Rican economy provides plenty to worry about, and that’s a huge understatement.)
It’s hard to overestimate how ground-shaking this election will be if, after decades of bipartisan dominance alongside the Social Christian Unity Part (PUSC), the National Liberation Party (PLN) candidate, Antonio Alvarez Desanti, does not even come in second.
Lots to unpack on the Legislative Assembly side: having such a sizable Restoration Party faction within the assembly will mark a significant shift. Meanwhile, the Citizen Action Party, while in second place at the moment on the presidential side, looks to decrease to only 9 seats, down from 13 in the period that will conclude in May.
9:10 pm: With 45.7 percent of votes reported, here’s how it stands: 25.9 percent Fabricio Alvarado (National Restoration Party), Carlos Alvarado (Citizen Action Party) at 20.1 percent, Antonio Alvarez (National Liberation Party) at 19.5 percent. Meanwhile, the Assembly is lining up with 16 legislators for Liberation and a whopping 14 for evangelical National Restoration.
We could be looking at an Alvarado-Alvarado runoff, but the night’s still young.
Meanwhile, Juan Diego Castro, who for some time was the controversial front-runner, is conceding.
8:50 pm: The second cutoff held a surprise. While Fabricio Alvarado held the lead, the Citizen Action Party’s Carlos Alvarado moves up within spitting distance of Liberation’s Alvarez (Liberation 19.9 percent, PAC 19.3 percent). A second round of voting is now guaranteed.
Opponents of evangelical preacher Fabricio Alvarado around the country are left to wonder: would the charisma-challenged but socially conservative Alvarez Desanti be a stronger opponent against Alvarado, given that he comes closer to matching the preacher’s social conservatism? Or would an Alvarado vs. Alvarado matchup, in which the socially liberal Carlos Alvarado could energize a younger base, be a better bet?
8:11 pm: The Supreme Elections Tribunal’s Sesión Solemne is getting underway with the singing of the National Anthem before TSE President Luis Antonio Sobrado presents the first batch of results. National Restoration Party presidential candidate Fabricio Alvarado has a significant lead at 26.7 percent of the vote, with 11.5 percent of voting tables reporting. National Liberation Party (PLN) candidate Antonio Alvarez Desanti is second with 22.6 percent, followed by Carlos Alvarado of the Citizen Action Party (PAC) with 16 percent.
7:30 pm: As that first batch of data draws closer, we have a chance to reflect on some of the big questions these results may help us start to answer. Will this unusual election, when, as our columnist Alvaro Murillo has pointed out, a candidate’s party identity has become all but irrelevant, mark the end not only of the 20th century’s bipartisan system but also of remaining loyalty to the traditional National Liberation Party? Have national divisions been redrawn along the lines of social issues such as abortion and gay marriage?Will the chaotic campaign have driven voter turnout even further down (the abstention rate was 31.8 percent in 2014, one of the lowest turnouts in history), or will Fabricio Alvarado’s appeal to conservative voters – or opposition to his religious views – have energized his base or his opponents?
Without any doubt, the biggest question of all is whether the approximately one-third of voters who were still undecided when the last opinion polls were conducted, turned out to vote or stayed home, and how they flipped. Stay tuned.
6:29 pm: The polls are closed and the waiting game is on. Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) officials have announced they expect to have their first set of results for us at approximately 8 pm. Until then, we’ll be parsing available information about voter turnout, although our correspondents’ visits to voting centers around the country showed variations that seemed to befit this unpredictable election season. Some centers were jam-packed, while others were sluggish; Citizen Action Party (PAC) supporters predictably swarmed university neighborhoods, while we heard reports of massive movements of National Restoration Party voters in rural areas.
Certainly one data point to watch in the coming hours is estimated voter turnout in rural and urban areas, although it’s a bit of a guessing game as to whom that will favor.
Is the wait driving you to climb the walls and comerse las uñas? Catch up on our election coverage here.
This live blog is written by Tico Times Managing Editor Katherine Stanley Obando, with commentary and data from contributors including Assistant Editor Elizabeth Lang, political scientist and former Tico Times reporter Fabián Borges, and freelance contributors Verónica Ramos, Jonathan Jiménez, Gregory Calvo, Iva Alvarado, Gabriela Brenes, Carlos Andrés Madrigal, Augusto Bolaños, Francisco Cubillo and Juan Osorno.