Costa Rica’s new Legislative Assembly began work today with an unprecedented group of legislators, in a number of ways. One is that the party of the incoming president, Carlos Alvarado and the Citizen Action Party (PAC), has neither the largest group of legislators in the congress (that achievement belongs to the National Liberation Party, or PLN), nor the second-largest group. It’s in third place, with only 10 legislators.
The other unprecedented characteristic of this Catholic country’s new assembly is that second place belongs to evangelical Christians: 14 of the 57 legislators represent the National Restoration Party, poised to become one of the leading voices of opposition to Alvarado’s center-left government`.
The evangelical legislators, half of whom are pastors or preachers, are from the party of Fabricio Alvarado, the candidate defeated by Carlos Alvarado (no relation) April 1 in a presidential runoff. Carlos Alvarado won in a surprising landslide with 61 percent of hte vote; Fabricio Alvarado, a 43-year-old preacher who surged from obscurity by harshly criticizing moves to recognize gay marriage, came a distant second with 39 percent.
However, Fabricio Alvarado’s National Restoration Party had already clinched its 14 seats in the legislative elections held Feb. 4, over Citizen Action’s 10.
The list of PAC assembly members includes Costa Rica’s first openly gay legislator, journalist Enrique Sánchez.
“There are differences [with National Restoration] over certain issues linked to the rights of women and human rights. We will stick to our positions and we will strengthen and defend them,” Sánchez told AFP.
The former presidential candidate has taken a belligerent posture towards Carlos Alvarado’s new government, sharply criticizing it even before it takes power on May 8.
“We cannot grant legitimacy to a corrupt, irresponsible government, which tramples on religious freedoms, and promotes a secular state and the death and destruction of the family,” Fabricio Alvarado wrote on Twitter on Thursday, saying his deputies would be vigilant in their “defense of the family.”
When it begins work today, the assembly will have to urgently approve a tax reform to keep the public deficit at 6.2 percent of gross domestic product – a move which the four previous governments had been unable to pass.
Last week, the incoming president, a 38-year-old former journalist, unveiled a national unity Cabinet made up of 25 ministers, including 14 women and 11 men, who represent the main parties in parliament.
None of them are evangelicals.