The Citizen Action Party of Costa Rica broke 60 years of bipartisan rule in 2014, but after two terms in power it was all but wiped off the country’s political map in national elections.
The party’s presidential candidate, lawmaker Welmer Ramos, was never able to shake off Alvarado’s unpopularity and frustrated “change” the party had promised.
Political scientist Francisco Barahona blamed the fall on the governments of Alvarado and his predecessor, Luis Guillermo Solís. He said they created an “almost vengeful” feeling in people who wanted to punish him at the ballot box.
Corruption scandals, the approval of a controversial tax reform, unemployment and the handling of COVID-19 restrictions have contributed to a discontent that has manifested itself in the popularization of the expression “it’s the fault of the PAC” – a reference to the Spanish initials of the party.
The party has never had a clear ideological direction, operating with economic positions very close to those of the right and human rights positions close to those of the left, Barahona said. In the end, the party betrayed its promise of ethical government, he said.
“The issue of ethics is important, because the party did not fight to avoid corruption, nor did it want to govern for the progressive majorities that elected it,” Barahona said. “That’s why people preferred to erase them from the map.”
The Solís and Alvarado administrations were plagued by corruption scandals. Under the Solís administration, a decree allowed a businessman, now accused of fraud, to import cement from China. The government has been accused of facilitating a number of loans from a public bank and the necessary import permits. Juan Carlos Bolaños, the businessman, is awaiting trial.
Alvarado has faced backlash over his office’s collection of personal information about citizens. Costa Rica’s top prosecutor filed paperwork last week seeking to waive the president’s immunity so he can face charges.
Prosecutors allege Alvarado abused his authority by creating the Presidential Data Analytics Unit for the supposed purpose of using personal data to better tailor public policy. But the unit reportedly sought limited information from various government agencies, such as personal income and medical records.
Unlike the National Liberation and Social-Christian Unity parties that alternated in power for six decades, Alvarado’s party failed to consolidate a structure that would allow it to remain a viable candidate and did not never developed the loyalty of those who “lent” their vote, Barahona said.
Short of the necessary 4% of the vote, the party will not be eligible for state funding and faces a $350,000 penalty from the Supreme Court of Elections for campaign finance violations.
Solís said the defeat must lead to “deep reflection”.