Costa Rica runoff, 2018: Alvarado (the better one) wins

In Costa Rica’s runoff, Carlos Alvarado beat Fabricio Alvarado. That is a relief. Fabricio ran his campaign mostly around stifling gay rights, and polling had the race very close. In fact, most polls had FA ahead (see the poll summaries at Wikipedia). However, at 60.6% to 39.3% for CA, it was not close at all.

This runoff followed an extraordinarily fragmented first round, in which four candidates had votes between 15% and 25%. FA led the first round, with 24.99% to CA’s 21.63%. The candidates of the two older parties (PLN and Social Christian Unity) came in third and fourth.

Costa Rica’s rules since the current regime was founded in 1949 have required a runoff among the top two candidates if the leader did not clear 40% of the vote in the first round. Because of the country’s historic two-party system (with some additional trailing parties), a runoff was never required until 2002. The party system has changed dramatically in recent cycles. A runoff was narrowly averted in 2006 (winner with 40.9%), and was next required in 2014 (leader with 30.6%, and runner-up with 29.7%, although the runoff contender, from the PLN, quit the race), and now in 2018.

Carlos Alvarado was nominated by the party of the incumbent president (Luís Guillermo Solís), the Citizens’ Action Party. This party has established itself as a major party in that it has passed the test of electing not one, but now two, different presidential nominees. Moreover, it has finished ahead of both of the old parties in two consecutive first rounds and ahead of at least one of them in four straight elections.

The runner-up candidate’s party, on the other hand, is a newer one. The National Restoration Party was contesting only its second presidential election (though it won congressional seats in 2006), and in 2014 its candidate managed under 1.4% of the vote.

The now more fragmented political scene raises the obvious question of how President-elect Carlos Alvarado will be able to govern. The Costa Rican presidency is one of the weaker ones among pure presidential democracies, and as the congress was elected concurrently with the first round, reflects that round’s fragmentation.

The president-elect’s party, Citizens’ Action, has only the third highest seat total in the Legislative Assembly. It won 16.3% of votes and 10 of the 57 seats (17.5%). The leading party will be the old PLN, which won 19.5% of the votes (compared to 18.6% for its presidential candidate) and 17 seats (29.9%). The National Restoration Party finished second (as it did in the presidential first round) with just over 18% of the votes and 14 of the 57 seats (24.6%).  The Social Christian Unity Party won 14.6% and 9 seats. No other party has more than 4 seats, and the total number of parties represented is seven.

Notably, even if he strikes a deal with the PLN, the president will not have quite enough to control the assembly: such a coalition would be two seats short.

The Libertarian Movement–one of the few relatively well established parties anywhere of this family–slipped well back. It will be without seats for the first time since before 1998. (The party won 9 seats in 2010, when its presidential candidate finished third with 20.8% of the vote.)

The election results will pose a governing challenge, but at least the requirement for a second round has led to the better Alvarado being elected.

Costa Rica: Araya ends campaign

The changes in the Costa Rican party system really are fundamental. Last week, Johnny Araya, the presidential candidate of the current ruling party, National Liberation (PLN), quit the runoff race. The PLN was the country’s strongest party for most of the democratic period since 1949, but Araya won just under 30% of the vote in the first round in February.

Araya’s decision means Guillermo Solis of Citizen’s Action will be elected, essentially unopposed. It also means Costa Rica will have a president who won under 31% of the vote. While Araya’s decision reflects polling that said Solis would trounce him, it raises the question of whether one of the other candidates in the highly fragmented first-round field could have mounted a stronger challenge. Maybe not, as the third place candidate, Jose Villalta, had just 17.25%.

Meanwhile, has anyone seen a breakdown of the legislative seats? Legislative elections were concurrent with the first round of the presidential election, but various sources I have consulted still do not show the result.

Costa Rica’s record fragmentation

I already said this in a comment at an earlier thread, but it is the sort of thing that is at the very core of Fruits & Votes, and hence deserves its own space…

By my calculation, the effective number of vote-winning parties in Costa Rica’s 2 Feb. election was 6.21. The effective number of presidential candidates was 4.36. Both easily break the record for the country’s elections back to 1953. The old averages and maximums were 3.21 and 4.84 for vote-winning legislative parties and 2.37 and 3.30 for presidential candidates. (Historical figures based on Bormann and Golder’s dataset.)

Costa Rica’s party system sure is unrecognizable from what it was for so long!

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The effective number of parties or candidates is by now the most well established measure of electoral or legislative fragmentation. It is simply a weighted count of the number of components (parties, candidates, or anything else) where the components are weighted by their own size through squaring them. Operationally: square each component’s share (out of 1), sum the squares, and take the reciprocal of the sum. Originally proposed by Laakso and Taagepera in a 1979 article.

Elections in Costa Rica and El Salvador

Presidential elections are taking place today in two countries in Central America, El Salvador and Costa Rica. The latter country also has legislative elections, whereas El Salvador uses a non-concurrent cycle and will not elect its National Assembly for another year.

DW says:

Experts say both of Sunday’s votes will result in runoffs, as neither candidate leading in the polls is likely to get the 50 percent plus one vote needed to declare victory.

One might wonder who these experts are, as in Costa Rica, it takes 40% to win in a single round, not a majority.

For El Salvador, an average of five recent polls puts the incumbent Vice President Salvador Sanchez of the FMLN in the lead, but indeed well short of a majority: 35.6%. The ARENA candidate, Norman Quijano, currently mayor of San Salvador, is second with an average of 31.3% in the polls. In third with around 11% is Elias Antonio Saca of GANA. Saca is a former president from ARENA who split from his party with a good chunk of its caucus in the current National Assembly to lend support to Mauricio Funes, elected in 2009 as the first president from the FMLN. Obviously, his voters will prove pivotal in the upcoming presidential race just as his votes have been pivotal in the legislature.

As for Costa Rica, the race is said to be tight between Johnny Araya of the ruling National Liberation Party and Jose Maria Villalta from a left-wing Broad Front that has been only a marginal force until now. In fact, other than in 2002, Costa Rica has never required a runoff, as it has had two parties generally dominant since the current democratic regime was founded in the late 1940s. However, in recent years it has been more fragmented. (In 2006 the winner barely averted a runoff, and both leading candidates were just barely over 40%.) Perhaps runoffs are going to be needed more frequently in the future.