Uncertainty is putting everything into low gear

The country not only is approaching a quiet time for electioneering, but the prospect of a change in presidents has employees and officials sitting tight.

If an expected runoff is required because no presidential candidate received 40 percent of the popular vote Sunday, the uncertainty will linger until the totals are announced late April 6.

For many, the election is a question of a job. Of course all the members of the Asamblea Legislativa leave that job May 1. But there is no need to cry for them. Many will be back in four years. Meanwhile, they will find jobs within the bureaucracy of the legislature or in government offices. That is if their candidate wins.

A curiosity of Costa Rican election law is that the president cannot campaign. She, in this case, is supposed to remain impartial and aloof because the president usually carries a lot of weight.

This year the last thing candidates would want is a presidential endorsement because Laura Chinchilla is low in public opinion ratings.

So for the next four months, Ms. Chinchilla will be cutting a lot of ribbons and inaugurating a lot of public works. Her predecessor, Óscar Arias Sánchez did that, and he even cut ribbons on projects that were nowhere near finished. An example is the Caldera highway that was the scene of multiple landslides long after Arias left office.

The lethargy extends to civil service workers. The tendency to avoid sticking out one’s neck becomes even more typical during the election uncertainty.

In some cases, appointed officials complain that workers pay no attention because the appointee soon will be gone. Consequently, neither Ms. Chinchilla nor any officials below her in the central government structure are likely to complete any projects or initiatives between now and May 8 when the new president takes over.

A runoff also means that presidential candidates are hamstrung. Being elected in February gives sufficient time to assemble a cabinet and fill the many appointments that depend on the chief executive. Such actions can only be tentative between now and April 6 if a runoff is required, as the polls suggest, and the winner will have just a month to form a staff before the May 8 inauguration.

That also means that the next president will have trouble luring competent candidates if the job offer can only be tentative. The leading candidates have made promises and have a general idea of who will fill the important spots, but appointments for the second and third tiers, such as vice ministers, still are undecided.

This entry was posted in Costa Rica News. Bookmark the permalink.