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Election in Costa Rica is unexpected cliffhanger

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February 9, 2006

Election in Costa Rica is unexpected cliffhanger

by Salvatore Ciolfi

Costa Ricans voted on February 6th but may not know their new leader until the end of the month. With close to 90% of the votes accounted for, the two main candidates are in a dead heat, with the well-known Oscar Arias leading newcomer Otton Solis by only 3250 votes.

Arias, who was president of the country between 1986-1990, was expected to easily gain the 40 per cent threshold needed to enter office. The pollsters, however, seem to have underestimated a larger than expected voter turnout among the country's youth, a group that has unexpectedly supported Solis. The results have forced election officials to start hand counting every ballot, a process that make take up to three weeks.

Arias won a Nobel peace prize for his work in helping end the Nicaraguan civil war. During that conflict he managed to get all five Central American countries to sign his peace plan, an arrangement that has had a lasting stabilizing effect on the region. It is therefore not surprising that his campaign focused on his previous tenure, as well as the need for corrupt-free government.

The Central American Free Trade Accord with the U.S. may be playing a role in the closer than expected results. Although both candidates supported the pact, Solis has been the only one to discuss the matter openly. He maintains that the free trade agreement needs to be renegotiated, stating that it favors Washington in areas of agriculture, telecommunications and the environment. Currently Costa Rica is the only signatory not to ratify the deal.

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The Dominion is a monthly paper published by an incipient network of independent journalists in Canada. It aims to provide accurate, critical coverage that is accountable to its readers and the subjects it tackles. Taking its name from Canada's official status as both a colony and a colonial force, the Dominion examines politics, culture and daily life with a view to understanding the exercise of power.

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