Celebrating Costa Rica’s democracy
Civil elections have shown that Costa Rica’s democracy is beacon of stability for Central America. An article on its ‘Refreshing Electoral Process’ by QCostaRica’s Simone Shapiro for Triblive.com explains that “like the United States, Costa Rica is a constitutional republic and has been since 1949. Like the United States, Costa Rica holds presidential elections every four years. Costa Rica held its presidential election to customize this process.”
Civil elections show the benefits of the stability enjoyed by a country that has been without an army for half a century; it the only country without a military in the world. Costa Rica’s democracy and Costa Rica’s democratic tradition are the result. What is a better role model for the rest of Central America? Add your answers below! | Democracy, elections, and voting at Democracy Chronicles
“Peace is not the product of a victory or a command.
It has no finishing line,
no final deadline,
no fixed definition of achievement.
Peace is a never ending process,
the work of many decisions.”
H. E. Oscar Arias
President of Costa Rica
Nobel Peace Laureate
The transition to democracy was not easy. The history of the period provided by Viva Costa Rica is a good description:
Costa Rica’s political system is defined by the 1949 Constitution as a democratic republic run by an elected president and the Council of Government, a 19-member cabinet. The Legislative Assembly, composed of 57 elected members, represents the country’s seven provinces. Candidates for the presidential election must be secular citizens, and are only allowed to serve one term. Voting is required by all citizens between ages of 18-70. Elections are held every four years on the first Sunday in February, and are overseen by a Special Electoral Tribunal. Each of the seven provinces of Costa Rica is run by a governor who is appointed by the President. The provinces – Alajuela, Cartago, Guanacaste, Heredia, Limon, Puntarenas, and San José – are divided into 81 counties and 421 districts. Each district is served by a municipal council which runs its everyday affairs.
There are traditionally two rival political parties in Costa Rica: the National Liberation Party (PLN) and the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC). The PLN leans toward welfare-state liberalism, while the PUSC is more progressive, conservative and generally supports business interests. The PLN traditionally holds a majority in the Legislative Assembly, while the presidency alternates every four years, switching back and forth between candidates from the two rival parties. Elections are usually very close, victors winning only by a 2 or 3 percent margin. From the CIA World Factbook:
Although explored by the Spanish early in the 16th century, initial attempts at colonizing Costa Rica proved unsuccessful due to a combination of factors, including disease from mosquito-infested swamps, brutal heat, resistance by natives, and pirate raids. It was not until 1563 that a permanent settlement of Cartago was established in the cooler, fertile central highlands. The area remained a colony for some two and a half centuries. In 1821, Costa Rica became one of several Central American provinces that jointly declared their independence from Spain. Two years later it joined the United Provinces of Central America, but this federation disintegrated in 1838, at which time Costa Rica proclaimed its sovereignty and independence. Since the late 19th century, only two brief periods of violence have marred the country’s democratic development. In 1949, Costa Rica dissolved its armed forces. Although it still maintains a large agricultural sector, Costa Rica has expanded its economy to include strong technology and tourism industries. The standard of living is relatively high. Land ownership is widespread.