Next year will see political excitement and surprises

Next year is a campaign year. The next presidential election is Feb. 2, 2014, but 2013 is the year in which political parties pick their nominees and when those selected present their campaign to the electorate.

Many believe that the San José mayor, Johnny Araya, has all but sewn up the nomination of the Partido Liberación Nacional. They may be wrong.

In a display of support last week a majority of the legislators of that party pledged their support to Rodrigo Arias Sánchez. He is what is technically known as a pre-candidate.

Araya has his campaign well under way, and he has tapped a potential opponent, Antonio Álvarez Desanti, as his campaign manager. This was a strategic move because Álvarez also has stage presence that can attract votes.

Arias, the brother of the former president and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, does not exude the same charisma. However, the 17 lawmakers who gave their support said they did so because Rodrigo Arias has far more national level governmental experience. He was minister of the Presidencia or chief of staff for his brother.

Liberación party members will be meeting April 21 to pick a nominee. The party has dominated politics since 1948, and rival parties, such as Unidad Social Cristiana, appear to have fallen apart.

Yet, President Laura Chinchilla Miranda was a Liberación product, and her presidency has been less than impressive. So the party needs a dynamic personality to win the presidency and generate enough votes to elect a legislative majority.

So far, the biggest challenge seems to be a proposed coalition of minor parties that have adopted a patriotic and socialistic theme. Count here some lawmakers from the Partido Acción Ciudadana, which has always put forth Ottón Solís as a presidential candidate. Some members of the party have their own ambitions, and a coalition with other parties might attract enough votes for a victory.

The themes include support for the troubled Caja Costarricense de Seguro Social, and above all, stop the Arias brothers who gave the country the Free Trade Treaty with the United States.

The coming year is long enough for dramatic developments on the political scene. Former president Miguel Ángel Rodríguez is at least acquitted temporarily of allegations involving the Alcatel cell telephone scandal. If his acquittal stands up in a supreme court appeal, he will be eligible to run, although at 72 he may not.

Waiting is Rafael Calderón Fournier, another ex-president who carries an historic surname. He wanted to be a candidate in 2010 but dropped out after he was sentenced for five years in prison for his role in the so-called Caja-Fischel case, involving bribes associated with the purchase of medical equipment by the government.

However, the Sala III cut his prison term to three years, which basically meant no prison at all. So he could be a candidate. Also a possible candidate is his politically attuned wife, Gloria Bejarano Almada, who has served as a lawmaker. They are Unidad members.

Sounding more and more like a candidate is former president José María Figueres. He says he is not in the running, but he is developing a plan for Costa Rica’s future.

With all these characters and scripts that have yet to be written, the coming year promises excitement and surprises.

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