Costa Rica officially launched its 2017-2018 presidential campaign season this month with aspirants formally announcing their candidacies and vice-presidential running-mates to the Electoral Tribunal the week of October 15. The national election, which will take place on February 4, has 18 official contenders.
The ruling party, Citizen Action (PAC), formally chose Carlos Alvarado as its presidential candidate. President Luis Guillermo Solis’ current term marked PAC’s first-ever presidential victory. Alvarado served as minister of human development and later minister of labor in this administration before resigning to run for president. Alvarado, a writer and political scientist, is calling for party unity in the face of unfolding corruption accusations within the administration.
Antonio Alvarez is running for president for the third time, his second time as the nominee of the National Liberation Party (PLN), one of Costa Rica’s traditionally dominant political parties. He previously lost the party’s primary elections in 2001. He also lost the national elections when he ran at-large with his own party, Union for Change, in 2006. Alvarez has served as a congressman twice, from 1994 to 1998 and again from 2014 to 2017, and was president of the Legislative Assembly for a year during both terms. He is currently leading the presidential race, according to polling data.
Juan Diego Castro has made surprising gains in popularity throughout this election cycle. Largely resorting to populist rhetoric, Castro is considered an outsider despite a long history in Costa Rican politics.
Rodolfo Piza will run on behalf of Costa Rica’s second historically dominant party, the Social Christian Union Party, which is still recovering from a series of corruption scandals in the early 2000s.
The remaining 14 presidential candidates have little chance of succeeding in the national election but are ultimately hoping for a seat in the legislative assembly.
The latest poll from the University of Costa Rica indicates overwhelming uncertainty among voters. Only 57 percent of participants said they would definitely vote, and, among them, 40 percent are still undecided on their candidate. With three months until election day, the race is bound to get competitive.