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2020 Municipal Elections

Evidence of Costa Rica´s solid Democracy

Last Sunday, February 2nd, 2020 local government elections were held in Costa Rica. Such local administrative units are known as Municipalities. The mayor of a total of eighty-two Municipalities as well as other political positions within them, were elected by direct voting of citizens living in each territorial subdivision known as ¨Cantones¨.

This was the fifth election process since a legal reform launched in 1998 which granted more responsibility and direct control over territorial, political and administrative matters to local governments. The process was a success.
Historically, since the Spanish colonial period, local governments were important administrative entities throughout Latin America. In Costa Rica, within most of the twentieth century, the tendency evolved into a centralized government based in the Central Valley. Politicians in the late 1990´s realized that territories far away from the country´s capital city of San José, and with such heterogeneous characteristics among them, demanded that several administrative matters were handled inhouse.

The decision proved to be the right way to go. Even though Costa Rica does not have an enormous extension or population, the eighty-two ¨Cantones¨ have such a varied geographical, economical, and demographic reality, that it makes a lot of sense that they are administered locally. Some are urban, densely populated, others are rural with different agricultural activities going on, some have coastline, ports, airports, important infrastructure facilities, boundary with neighboring countries, industries, etc.

Perhaps the main highlight is that these elections, just like the national elections held every four years, are a benchmark of democratic processes, just like Costa Rica is an example itself as one out of two or three of the longest continuous democracies along Latin America. Everything related to the elections is transparent and closely supervised. Every actor handles its role with responsibility: from the media that covers and informs the population about the process itself and the political alternative voters have prior to election day, up to the citizens that volunteer that day to do the leg work assuring a fair and organized event.

The results delivered a few hours after ballot boxes were closed by the electoral authority (Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones) were very diverse. Some mayors were reelected (eight out of the eleven Cantones in Guanacaste for example), traditional nation-wide parties won most Cantones, and even new and local parties were successful in specific Municipalities. Santa Cruz, Tamarindo´s local administrative government will have as new mayor Jorge Arturo Alfaro from the local party Auténtico Santacruceño.

The new representatives will be holding office starting May 1st, 2020 for four years. This could be a new beginning for the communities, where the recently elected governments have the responsibility to prove themselves worthy to the voters that elected them by performing well.