By Alvaro Murillo
SAN JOSE (Reuters) – Voters in Costa Rica will head to the polls Sunday to choose a successor to outgoing President Carlos Alvarado for the 2022-2026 term from a crowded field of candidates.
Opinion polls suggest https://www.reuters.com/world/europe/costa-ricas-sunday-presidential-elections-likely-head-second-round-study-2022-02-02 that none of the 25 candidates will net enough votes to avoid a second round.
Following are profiles of the three main contenders who are polling with the most support.
JOSE MARIA FIGUERES
A former president of Costa Rica between 1994 and 1998, Jose Maria Figueres, an industrial engineer, is seeking a second stint as candidate of the centrist National Liberation Party (PLN).
Figueres, 67, is considered the most establishment of the 25 candidates in the elections.
Figueres presents himself as a model of experience and a modernizing heir to the political reign of his father, Jose Figueres, a pillar of national politics in the second half of the twentieth century.
A recent poll by the University of Costa Rica puts Figueres first in the race with 17% of support. He is campaigning on the slogan “Let’s have a president again” and has vowed to use international contacts to lift post-pandemic economic growth and deepen green industries in the environmentally-friendly country.
Figueres was executive director of the World Economic Forum until 2004 when he resigned amid accusations in Costa Rica that he had influenced state contracts with the telecoms company Alcatel, a case that was never tried in court.
A 61-year-old lawyer and vice president between 2002 and 2006, Saborio is polling about 13% support. Analysts believe she could be favorite to win in an eventual run-off due to her clean image and scandal-free background.
She is a member of the Christian Social Unity Party (PUSC), a center-right group that alternated power with the PLN between the 1960s and 2014, when bipartisanship ended.
After 15 years out of politics and backing rival candidate Fabricio Alvarado in 2018, Saborio touts her experience as director of the country’s judicial police and her experience in government during the rule of former President Abel Pacheco.
Saborio, the only female candidate with a real chance of getting to the second round according to polls, is pressing for public sector austerity, tax cuts and getting business sectors and social groups involved in government projects.
A television journalist, singer and evangelical preacher, Alvarado is trying for the second time to reach the presidency, four years after he surprised with a first-round win only to lose the runoff against current President Carlos Alvarado.
Polling with 10.3% of support less than a week before the elections, the 47-year-old Alvarado presents himself as close to the people and as an anti-establishment outsider, detached from the country’s political dynasties and traditional parties.
Alvarado is running as a conservative and religious candidate. He is competing for the New Republic party after a falling out with his former party, National Restoration.
He is pitching major infrastructure projects to boost employment and digitalization initiatives to improve education.
(Reporting by Alvaro Murillo; writing by Valentine Hilaire; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien)