By Alvaro Murillo
SAN JOSE (Reuters) – Rodrigo Chaves, the finance minister in Costa Rica’s outgoing government, was in pole position to win a run-off for the presidency in less than two weeks time, a voter survey showed on Tuesday, though the race remained too tight to call.
Chaves, an anti-establishment technocrat who had worked for the World Bank up until 2019, scored 43.3% against 38.1 percent
for Jose Maria Figueres, a centrist candidate who was last president from 1994-1998, according to the poll published by the University of Costa Rica.
The survey of 1,015 voters, conducted by the university’s Center for Research and Political Studies (CIEP) between March 17-21, found 16.5% were still undecided.
And with Chaves’s lead reduced to just over five percentage points the contest could go to the wire, whereas a similar poll earlier this month had made him the favorite to win.
Given the margin of error of 3.1 points, the latest poll did not show any clear winner as Figuere’s maximum could beat Chaves’s minimum, researcher Jesus Guzman told Reuters.
The first round was held in February, when Chaves, the ruling Social Democratic Progress Party (PPSD) candidate, suprisingly came second with 17% of the vote, ten points less than Figueres, the National Liberation Party (PLN) candidate who fell short of the 40% needed to be declared the outright winner.
The winner of the April 3 run-off will replace Carlos Alvarado Quesada, with the transfer of power set for May 8. Costa Rica’s constitution bars presidents from holding two consecutive terms.
(Reporting by Alvaro Murillo; Writing by Valentine Hilaire; Editing by Jorgic Drazen & Simon Cameron-Moore)