Daily Archives: February 9, 2010

Costa Rica 2010

General elections were held in the Central American nation of Costa Rica on February 7. Incumbent President and Nobel Prize Laureate Óscar Arias, elected to a second non-consecutive term following a very narrow election in 2006, was not allowed to seek re-election. The 57 members of Costa Rica’s 57-member Legislative Assembly were also up for re-election.

In the largely middle-class and racially homogeneous, consensus-based peaceful, moderate politics have prevailed in Costa Rica since a period of brief turbulence in 1948. Between 1948 and 2006, Costa Rican politics were very bipartisan with two major power blocs: on the left, the National Liberation Party (PLN) and on the right, the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC). Ideological distinctions were often blurry between both parties, though historically the PUSC advocated more neoliberal economic policies despite being a ‘social Christian’ and populist party. Still, the PLN under President Óscar Arias has moved to the right and many members of the PLN’s left-wing have criticized the party’s shift to the right and some members of the PLN, such as Ottón Solís have left the party. The PUSC, whose candidate Abel Pacheco won the 2002 election, was destroyed by a large corruption scandal involving former PUSC Presidents following the 2002 election.

In the 2006 election, Arias, who was first elected in 1986 and left office in 1990 with a Nobel Prize in hand for his efforts at peace negotiations in neighboring countries which had been engulfed in civil wars in the 80s, was allowed to seek re-election in 2006. He won 40.9% of the vote against 39.8% for Ottón Solís. The PUSC’s Ricardo Toledo won 3.55% of the vote.

In an internal PLN primary, Arias’ candidate, Laura Chinchilla defeated the candidate of the PLN left – Johnny Araya, Mayor of San José with 55% against 41% for her main opponent. Chinchilla is a member of the so-called Arista wing of the PLN, or the right-wing which supports CAFTA (free trade with the US) and positions itself outside the PLN’s historical socialist ideology and more on a Third Way scale.

Her two main opponents were Ottón Solís, running to her left on a left wing platform opposed to neoliberalism and CAFTA; and Otto Guevara of the Libertarian Movement (ML), which supports a free-market economy and is a classical liberal party. The ML is notably pro-American and strongly opposed to the Cuban regime, and has seemingly benefited from the 2006 collapse of the PUSC. Here are the results of the presidential election:

Italicized candidates dropped out in favour of Ottón Solís.

Laura Chinchilla (PLN) 46.78%
Ottón Solís (PAC) 25.15%
Otto Guevara (ML) 20.83%
Luis Fishman (PUSC) 3.86%
Óscar López (PAE) 1.91%
Mayra González (PRC) 0.72%
Eugenio Trejos (FA) 0.37%
Rolando Araya (AP) 0.21%
Walter Muñoz (IN) 0.17%

In the legislative elections, here are the results for the major parties. Data from the TSE and La Nacion newspaper.

PLN 37.16% winning 23 seats (-1)
PAC 17.68% winning 12 seats (-5)
ML 14.48% winning 9 seats (+3)
PUSC 8.05% winning 6 seats (+1)
PAE 9.17% winning 4 seats (+3)
PRC 3.79% winning 1 seat (+1)
FA 3.66% winning 1 seat (+1)
RN 1.62% winning 1 seat (+1)

The other parties winning seats include the left-wing ‘Accessibility without Exclusion’, a single-issue (disabled rights) party; the Costa Rican Renovation (PRC) party which is a Christian Protestant evangelical right-wing party; the very left-wing Broad Front and a party ‘National Restoration’ which I can’t find information about.

More results and all on La Nacion’s website.

Ukraine 2010 – Runoff

The second round of the Ukrainian presidential election was held on February 7. The runoff opposed the top two candidates of the first round, former Prime Minister Viktor Yanukovych and incumbent Prime Minister Yulia Tymoshenko. As mentioned in earlier posts about Ukraine, both candidates represent a faction of the political debate which makes Ukraine one of the most electorally polarized countries in the world: the pro-Russians (Yanukovych) and the pro-Western/Ukrainian nationalists (Tymoshenko and defeated President Yuschenko). Here are the results of the runoff with 99.44% reporting.

Viktor Yanukovych (PR) 48.81%
Yulia Tymoshenko (BYuT) 45.61%
Against all 4.37%
Invalid 1.19%

Yanukovych’s victory is not much of a surprise following the results of the first round, but neither is the narrow margin which reflects well the nature of Ukrainian politics. Ukraine is one of the most politically polarized countries in the world, and the map of the runoff reflects that fact very well – more so than the map of the first round. The best example of this polarization is that there are no so-called ‘swing oblasts’ which have a good chance of voting for either side. Only one oblast switched from the first round, it was Zakarpat’ska, which narrowly voted for Yanukovych in the first round. But even in Zakarpat’ska, it’s more the result of a consolidation of the Orange vote behind Tymoshenko, so the switch in allegiances there was predictable.

Tymoshenko managed to win Yuschenko and Yatsenyuk’s first round vote, while Tigipko voters split roughly equally (44-43) between both candidates. Obviously, most Symonenko voters backed Yanukovych in the runoff. The momentum and power was on Yanukovych’s side throughout the campaign for the runoff.

I would be cautious before qualifying Yanukovych’s victory as a large victory for Moscow and a rebuke of more pro-Western policies by Ukrainians. The contentious issue hasn’t subsided, and polarization is still heavy. At the same time, Yanukovych didn’t win because of his personal popularity or even his regionalist policies, but much more because he represents a vote for stability. The vote was a clear rebuke of the instability, feuding and failed policies of the pro-Western government. Yanukovych’s election will signal only a minor change in relations with Russia, probably a friendlier and less confrontational approach in dealings surrounding natural gas with Moscow. Tymoshenko had already toned down the pro-Western rhetoric a bit, and Yuschenko’s government did not usher in major changes in regional ge0-politics except a confrontational attitude vis-a-vis Moscow, an attitude which was clearly rebuked by voters.

Yanukovych said it before the election, and it’s quite obvious to any observers, he won’t keep Tymoshenko’s pro-Orange government in place. He has two options before him: appoint a government which supports him using the current Parliament or call snap elections, probably in March. The most realistic outcome is probably a snap election, because Yanukovych would need to garner a majority within the current Parliament to form a government, and this requires one of the current government parties – probably the Lytvyn Bloc – from switching allegiances.