Latin America & Caribbean

Leftist Luis Solis wins Costa Rican presidential poll

Luis Guillermo Solis poses next to a figure of himself before delivering a speech at a rally after official election results were released in San Jose on 6 April, 2014 Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Luis Guillermo Solis campaigned on a promise to root out corruption

Luis Guillermo Solis of the centre-left Citizen Action Party (PAC) has won the presidential election in Costa Rica.

With almost all the votes counted, Mr Solis had 78%.

He had been expected to win after his rival - governing party candidate Johnny Araya - had stopped campaigning after opinion polls suggested Mr Solis had an unassailable lead.

Mr Solis's win breaks with the traditional two-party system which has dominated in Costa Rica for decades.

Mr Araya, whose name remained on the ballot even after he pulled out, got 22%.

Forty-three percent of the electorate abstained, the highest rate in the past 60 years.

Nevertheless, Mr Solis - who had appealed for a solid voter turnout - surpassed by more than 300,000 votes his own goal of getting more than a million people to cast their ballot for him.

'Waste of money'

Mr Solis, a 55-year-old historian and former diplomat, had started campaigning in October to raise his profile, which was rather low at the time.

His PAC party, which was founded in 2000, has never before been in power.

The PAC's narrow victory in the first round on 2 February against the well-established governing National Liberation Party came as a surprise.

Analysts say Mr Solis's campaign promise to tackle corruption and poverty in the Central American nation won over many undecided voters.

On 5 March, an opinion poll suggested Mr Solis had the support of 64% of voters with his rival lagging behind with 21%.

This prompted Mr Araya to give up his presidential bid. He said proceeding would be a waste of money.

Clamour for change

"It is only prudent not to spend millions on publicity, meetings and other events. We will respect the constitutional provisions, but I will refrain from any electoral activity," he told reporters at the time.

Mr Araya congratulated Mr Solis on his win saying he received these results "with serenity, with maturity, and I will start by recognising them with humility and respect".

Outgoing President Laura Chinchilla wished Mr Solis success in his new post.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Johnny Araya had stopped campaigning a month before the second round
Image copyright AFP
Image caption Mr Solis had campaigned until the last minute to make sure the rate of absenteeism would not be too high

Speaking to a crowd of flag-waving supporters, the winning candidate said that the polls showed "there is a unquestionable demand for change, for things not to carry on as they have, and I aim, with the help of God and the support of all of you, to bring you those changes that you're clamouring for".

He also effusively thanked his supporters via Twitter.

Mr Solis will be sworn in on 8 May.

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