Political centrist Luis Guillermo Solis has easily won the presidential runoff in Costa Rica, an expected result given that his only rival had stopped campaigning a month earlier because he was so far behind in the polls.
A solid voter turnout in the election on Sunday was a further victory for Solis, as experts had warned that a low turnout would undermine the legitimacy of his government.
“I will not let you down. The people have spoken,” Solis said at the end of the long day of voting, according to AFP news agency.
In the run-up to the vote, he had appealed to Costa Ricans to cast ballots and set a goal of getting more than 1 million votes.
Late on Sunday, Costa Rica’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced that with 93 percent of voting stations reporting Solis had 1,258,715 votes, or 77.9 percent support, Solis easily trounced ruling party candidate Johnny Araya at 22.1 percent.
Araya remained on the ballot even though he suspended his campaign because the country’s constitution does not allow for a candidate to drop out.
I receive these results with serenity, with maturity, and I will start by recognising them with humility and respect, and by congratulating President-elect Luis Guillermo Solis
While the 43.2 percent abstention rate was slightly above the 39.8 percent rate seen the last time a Costa Rican presidential election went to a second round in 2002, authorities said Solis received the highest absolute number of votes for a presidential candidate in the country’s history.
“Today the people have spoken, and have chosen their president,” said Supreme Electoral Council chief Luis Antonio Sobrado.
“I receive these results with serenity, with maturity, and I will start by recognising them with humility and respect, and by congratulating President-elect Luis Guillermo Solis,” Araya said, conceding the election, according to AP news agency.
Solis, a centre-leftist topped the first round of the presidential vote in February with only about 30 percent of the vote and a margin of less than 1 percentage point over Araya of the National Liberation Party.
But just over a month later, polls showed Solis had built a lead of two or three to one, and Araya stopped campaigning, calling it a waste of money.
Solis has vowed a more activist government that focuses on building up small and medium-sized local businesses while strengthening social and environmental programs in a country long considered the most stable in Central America.
While his Citizen Action Party opposed the Central American Free Trade Agreement, Solis said he won’t try to pull out of the deal, but will manage it better.
The popularity of Araya’s National Liberation party has been eroded by corruption allegations and discontent over high unemployment.