Liberación bites the bullet and moves into the minority

The opposition slate prevailed Monday as legislators elected leadership for the coming year.

Juan Carlos Mendoza became the president of the Asamblea Legislativa in the afternoon voting. He is a member of the Partido Acción Ciudadana. His election was a certainty because Liberación Nacional declined to put up a candidate.

The election ended what some called the worst political crisis in years. Named as vice president was Patricia Pérez of Movimiento Libertario. Members of other parties previously in the opposition got lesser officers.

Liberación lawmakers did not vote for a candidate. That party had 24 votes, less than the 29 needed to name leaders through April 30, 2012.

The other parties were Partido Unidad Social Cristiana, the Partido Accesibilidad sin Exclusión and the single lawmakers from Frente Amplio.

President Laura Chinchilla quickly issued a statement expressing her desire to work together with the new leadership in favor of the country.

Luis Gerardo Villanueva made clear earlier in the afternoon that he would not be a candidate for the presidency of the assembly and that his party, Liberación would not run a candidate.

Villanueva was at the middle of the conflict Sunday when he won the presidency after the opposition parties
had left the room. He later resigned. More than a dozen Sala IV appeals from individuals have been filed over the incident, according to the Poder Judicial. They appear to be moot now.

The chaos was so great Sunday that lawmakers did not meet for the annual state of the state message from the president. This was considered a national embarrassment because foreign diplomats and others are invited to hear the president. Casa Presidencial had to uninvite the guests Sunday afternoon. Ms. Chinchilla was said to be livid at the way the situation unfolded.

Insiders say that Liberación made a deal with some members of the opposition party to support Villanueva but only if the voting could be in secret. The opposition parties wanted to hold together their fragile bloc and wanted to oversee the voting by the members of the opposition parties. They walked out over the plan for secret voting.

Both groups sought the political high ground. Liberación styled itself as the defender of the right to secret ballot. The opposition parties claimed Liberación had engineered a coup d’etat by changing the rules. The rhetoric flew hot and fast.

Earlier Monday, Viviana Martín, the leader of the Liberación party in the legislature, met with opposition lawmakers and reached an agreement for a 3 p.m. meeting at which 55 of the 57 lawmakers attended.

That was enough to elect the opposition slate with 31 votes.

Costa Rica is not accustomed to hard-nosed politics, so the developments Sunday were covered live and in depth.

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