Runoffs, re-votes, and Costa Rica

The completion of the recount in the Costa Rican presidential election shows the lead for former President Oscar Arias having grown from 0.5% in the preliminary result to 1.1% now. However, the final result has not been declared, as allegations of irregularities still have to be investigated. Costa Rican law provides for a runoff between the top two only if the leader is below 40%, and there is so far no indication that Arias will fall below that threshold. (The runner-up, Otton Solis, was over 40%, but apparently has fallen just below and the two are now 40.9-39.8.)

I do not know whether Costa Rican law allows a re-vote, which should be distinguished from a runoff in that it would take place only in the case that a certain level of irregularity had been legally shown to have taken place. A re-vote, as I am defining it here, would also entitle all candidates from the original vote to run again. A runoff, on the other hand, is a race between the top two* from the first round, and is triggered not by irregularities but by the failure of the leading candidate to have reached a stipulated threshold (or, as I have argued, it could be a stipulated margin) in the first round.

The most famous case of a re-vote was, of course, Ukraine’s 2004 presidential election (which was actually a re-vote of a runoff). Ukrainian electoral law was already clear at the time that a re-vote could be called if the Supreme Court determined there had been irregularities sufficient to call the election into question.

Steven Taylor and I continue the discussion over at Poliblog.

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* Some second rounds permit more than two, although I am not sure those should be called runoffs. French legislative elections are an example. I am not aware of any second-round rules that permit more than two candidates in popular elections for presidents, except for the former German Weimar Republic.

(UPDATE: Somewhat later, Jonathan Edelstein made me aware of a country with more than two candidates in its presidential runoff: The Comoros.)

0 thoughts on “Runoffs, re-votes, and Costa Rica

  1. If you look at the rates at which elections in so many countries are being decided by the court systems, it should raise questions about the effect that the U.S. is having on countries in which they have economic interests. In Costa Rica it’s CAFTA, of which Arias is an ardent supporter. Why is it that after an election is over, the irregularities that are most often claimed are not investigated, and I mean thoroughly? Instead we wait another four years and have the same thing occur with the same results because nothing is ever done about it.
    If a boat is sinking and we all must bail it out doesn’t it make sense to anyone else that the holes must be plugged before the bailing begins? Goodbye democracy, hello fascism.

  2. So, what is the “rate” at which elections are being decided in the courts? Aside from the USA (where there is evidence of increasing post-election judicial claims), I don’t think it is very common. And the one case that really stands out was the quite heroic pro-democracy decision of the Ukrainian Supreme Court in 2004 (if only we had such impartial justices!).

    The Mexican supreme electoral court has also forced new elections in some cases at the state level.

    I don’t think there is any evidence of a general right-wing trend in judicial resolutions of elections, aside from the big one.

    As for Costa Rica, I am not aware of any evidence with which to impugn the integrity of that country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (which is not a court, but is a nonpartisan election-administration body that is sometimes called the “fourth branch”).

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