Today Costa Rica has held the first round of its presidential election, along with concurrent elections for congress. Cyprus has held the runoff of its presidential election.
Costa Rica has used a variant of “qualified plurality” to elect its presidents since the current democratic regime was established in 1949. The first round is decisive if the leading candidate has over 40% of the vote. Otherwise there is a runoff between the top two. No runoff was ever required until 2002 (when the leading candidate had 38.6%). In 2006, a runoff was narrowly averted when the leader got 40.9% (with a runner-up right behind, at 39.8%). A runoff was required in the most recent election before today’s, in 2014 (although the second candidate threw in the towel before the runoff).
Opinion polls collected at a Wikipedia article show that this year’s first-round contest is too close to call, with at least three candidates closely separated.
In a live blog at Tico Times, the following observation is made (7:30 p.m. entry):
Will this unusual election, when, as our columnist Alvaro Murillo has pointed out, a candidate’s party identity has become all but irrelevant, mark the end not only of the 20th century’s bipartisan system but also of remaining loyalty to the traditional National Liberation Party? Have national divisions been redrawn along the lines of social issues such as abortion and gay marriage?Will the chaotic campaign have driven voter turnout even further down…
The decline of partisanship is perhaps indeed something recent for Costa Rica, but the “two-party” system seems to have ended a while ago. Hence the frequent need for runoffs after decades of never having one. Already in 2014, I commented on the country’s “record fragmentation”. Moreover, it was the National Liberation Party candidate who decided in 2006 that his runoff chances were too weak to remain in the race.
In Cyprus, incumbent president Nicos Anastasiades of the Democratic Rally (DISY) has been reelected. The first round featured three candidates within a range of 25% to just over 35%. This may have been a case in which the runoff pairing affected the ultimate result, although I certainly do not know enough about Cypriot politics to say if that is plausible or not. (Cyprus uses the more common majority-runoff formula.)
Unlike Costa Rica, Cyprus has non-concurrent elections. The latest assembly elections were in 2016, and DISY won 18 of the 56 seats. (Next election is not till 2021.)
Like Costa Rica, Cyprus is a pure presidential system. I wish I knew more about how presidents govern in Cyprus with that level of partisan fragmentation. For that matter, I wish I knew more about what governance has been like in Costa Rica with the high fragmentation of the past four years. It is likely that whichever candidate is eventually elected president of Costa Rica this year also will face a highly fragmented congress.