Divided over gay rights, Costa Rica opened for presidential election

Vastavam web: Polling stations across Costa Rica opened early today for a presidential election that has split the country between an ultra-conservative evangelical preacher who slams gay rights and a former minister from the centre-left ruling party.The result will decide who rules the small Central American nation of five million people for the next four years.Fabricio Alvarado surged from nowhere in the first round of the election held in February, triumphing over a field of 13 candidates by fiercely criticizing gay marriage.

The Inter-American Court of Human Rights in January urged the recognition of same-sex marriages, setting off a polarizing debate in Costa Rica. The country is both socially conservative and proud of its progressive human rights record.Those issues include reining in a steadily climbing deficit, boosting education and upholding ecological standards.

In the first round, the preacher won 25 percent of the ballots against 22 percent for the former labor minister — both well short of the 40 percent required to avoid a run-off.”Neither of the two candidates motivates me sufficiently to give my support,” the head of the small Liberal Progressive Party, Eli Feinzaig, wrote on his social media accounts.

“But, ultimately, one of them has done enough to earn my clear and unequivocal repudiation,” he said, declaring he would vote for Carlos Alvarado.”The population still isn’t clear on what development model it wants,” a political analyst from the Latin American Social Sciences Institute, Gustavo Araya, told AFP.

“This is a photo finish. It isn’t statistically clear who will be the victor between these opposing platforms,” he said.Polling was taking place on Easter Sunday, at the end of a four-day holiday weekend. Roads back to the capital San Jose were choked as many voters drove back home to cast their ballots.