On Sunday, April 3rd, 2022, the Social Democratic Progress Party (PPSD), led by Rodrigo Chaves, won Costa Rica’s 2022 presidential elections.
As a career economist at the world bank, with little political experience, Rodrigo Chaves’ campaign was greatly centered on changing the economic structure of the nation and minimizing corruption. Chaves promised to take a populist approach to the state's profound corruption, which he used to criticize former President Jose Maria Figueres and the National Liberation Party (PLN).
The PPSD won 52.9% of the votes as only 57.3% of eligible voters turned up to the polls, during the final round. The 2022 elections sought the lowest voter turnout in decades, resulting from the increasing fiscal deficit due to a declining economy.
In 2021, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreed to a $1.78 billion financial endowment to Costa Rica. The government agreed to administer fiscal changes, implement rigorous economic policies, and lessen government expenditures to reduce the deficit. Hitherto, only public sector workers’ benefits have been curved by lawmakers working for the government.
Struggling Costa Ricans have expressed their dissent towards the PLN and its political actors. As Mr. Figueres comes from one of the traditional political families, he was automatically the second choice in the final round of the election.
Mr. Chaves’ minuscule political career has some accreditation. He served as the economic minister for six months in former President Carlos Alvarado’s outgoing Citizens Action Party government. Mr. Chaves has foregrounded his ambitions to alleviate the “privileges” of the existing political parties in Costa Rica.
The recent emergence of the coronavirus pandemic has weakened the economic prosperity of the country. Out of the 5.1 million population of Costa Rica, about 23% live in poverty. The discontent of the people towards expanding corruption, amidst the pandemic, gave Mr. Chaves the fundamental principle for his campaign.
Costa Rica has relished a stable political climate for decades. Nevertheless, Chaves has manifested his strong desire to use referendums to bypass the congress and replace traditional policies with populist demands.
Tourism is a large contributor to the economic prosperity of Costa Rica. The pandemic slowed the movement of people in the world, thus, greatly affecting the economies of countries that are tourism based.
The voting opposition of Mr. Chaves has voiced their concerns over his past sexual harassment accusations while serving at the World Bank. He denied all accusations and was demoted, not fired. The harassment accusations involved six women over the span of four years, per the Wall Street Journal.
Mr. Chaves gave a restoring speech to reconcile Costa Ricans divided by the opposing views of the campaign. According to the BBC, he told his voters, “Tonight, let's set aside the party colors that can easily divide us. I humbly ask you that we unite beneath the blue, white and red of our national flag."
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