Tuesday, March 21

Last presidential debate led to exchanges of darts between candidates and exposed their strategies

The electoral campaign had its last presidential debate this Friday, February 4, organized by Teletica just two days before the national elections.

The presidential candidates present at the Teletica debate were José María Figueres, from the National Liberation Party (PLN); Lineth Saborío, from the Christian Social Unity Party (PUSC); Fabricio Alvarado, of the New Republic Party (PNR); Rodrigo Chaves, from the Social Democratic Progress Party (PPSD); José María Villalta, from the Broad Front (FA); and Eliécer Feinzaig, of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP).

The format of the discussion of more than two hours opened the doors for exchanges between the six candidates, as well as for directing attacks.

One of the topics that dominated the conversation was the rights of women in the context of the accusation against Chaves for “inappropriate conduct” at the World Bank. Virtually all of the remaining five candidates questioned his actions. Villalta even read a part of the accusation in which the alleged attitudes of Chaves are listed.

For his part, Chaves insisted that the decision-making part of the case dismissed these accusations.

One of the most critical moments was when Chaves questioned Saborío about his “intellectual capacity” regarding the understanding of said resolution. “I do not allow you to tell me if I have intellectual capacity or not,” the candidate replied.

Saborío also starred in another tense moment when, at the beginning of the debate, he asked Figueres to respect him and avoid making “grimaces”, after the images that circulated the day before during the Repretel debate.

The past of Figueres and the PLN was also a consistent theme. Chaves accused that group of causing the current fiscal crisis, Alvarado insisted that bipartisanship is a thing of the past, while Villalta called on the former president to “break institutions” and favor business in conjunction with the PUSC.

Faced with these attacks, Figueres defended his decisions by saying that they were due to corruption in those entities, such as the Anglo bank or the Costa Rican Railway Institute (Incofer).

Lineth Saborío’s positions were questioned by other candidates, who expressed a lack of clarity. Figueres and Chaves complained about the lack of a plan on issues of economic growth and pensions, respectively.

Finally, another of the constant attacks was directed towards Alvarado. Chaves asked him several times about technical economics and oil exploration issues, to which Alvarado replied that he had respective teams working on it, while defending his proposal to take advantage of natural resources such as gas and mining.

For their part, Alvarado and Villalta exchanged their positions on conscientious objection. The first in favor; the second against. “You are seeking to justify and legitimize those public officials who discriminate against people from vulnerable populations,” the front-runner snapped at the NR candidate.

The last debate of the campaign also served to expose some strategies just two days before the presidential election and in the midst of an uncertain environment due to the high percentage of undecided, which reaches 32% according to the latest survey by the Research Center in Political Studies (CIEP).

Figueres, who leads the intention to vote, tried to clear himself of questions and avoided entering into controversies, even remaining on the sidelines for much of the open debate.

Alvarado and Villalta maintained the exchange that they already bring from other debates. The first with the aim of linking “communism” to the figure of the current deputy, while Villalta constantly questions human rights issues. Both are in contention to enter a possible second round.

Chaves also targeted Alvarado on a few occasions, as he is his closest contender; while Villalta addressed his questions to each of the candidates on different occasions, exposing uncomfortable topics such as Feinzaig’s disqualification from the post after his tenure as Deputy Minister of Transport.

For their part, Figueres and Saborío, in dispute for that first place, exchanged questions and answers on several occasions.

Feinzaig looked more diluted in this debate, without major clashes but neither with a forceful role. He avoided entering into “dimes and diretes” and opted for presenting proposals, although the rest of the candidates questioned the how of his ideas.

Saborío received darts and questions from practically all the candidates, with the intention of highlighting the lack of clarity and ideas that are demanded of him both by the candidates themselves, as well as in interviews and in social network spaces. The Social Christian currently ranks second, but with a downward trend.