Apr 4, 2022 - World

Anti-establishment economist set to win Costa Rica presidential election

Rodrigo Chaves

Rodrigo Chaves. Photo: Luis Acosta/AFP via Getty Images

Former Costa Rican Finance Minister and ex-World Bank official Rodrigo Chaves is set to win Costa Rica's presidential runoff, according to preliminary results from the country's Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

Why it matters: Sunday's election garnered little enthusiasm in the country, where more than 42% of eligible voters did not participate.

  • One of Chaves' more immediate challenges will be to reactivate an economy battered by the COVID-19 pandemic, and to alleviate the worsening poverty, per Reuters.
  • Chaves ran as a maverick, vowing to "shake up the political elite" and "even pledging to use referendums to bypass Congress to bring change," Reuters writes.

Driving the news: Chaves of the Social Democratic Progress Party won more than 52% of the vote, while centrist former President José María Figueres captured about 47%.

  • Chaves served briefly as the finance minister of outgoing President Carlos Alvarado.

What they're saying: "I humbly beg José María and his party to work together to make possible what Don José María himself called the Costa Rican miracle," Chaves said, referring to Figueres' father and former president, José Figueres Ferrer, per Reuters.

  • "Let's put aside pettiness and vanity. Tonight, we will begin together to serve our country."
  • Figueres, who conceded defeat, congratulated Chaves on his victory and wished him "the best."

Between the lines: The presidential election was not without controversy for both candidates.

  • Figueres resigned as executive director of the World Economic Forum in 2004 amid accusations that he had influenced state contracts with Alcatel, a local telecoms company. He was never charged with any crime and he denied any wrongdoing.
  • Chaves had been embroiled in a sexual harassment investigation for a "pattern of sexual misconduct against junior employees" at the World Bank, per the local media. He denied the allegations, and left the bank in 2019 after being demoted, per the Wall Street Journal.

What's next: The final results of Sunday's election are expected this week after the votes are manually tallied and certified, per the New York Times.

  • Chaves is expected to take office on May 8.
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