Legislative reorganization crucial for new president

Thursday, May 1, is International Labor Day, and it also is the day Costa Rica’s new legislature is sworn in.

The day features a big morning march where anyone with a gripe is welcomed. The march usually ends up at the legislature where some members of the new deputies are expected to greet some of the marchers.

The possibilities of complaints are many this year. Utility costs are one. The dry season is expensive for the Instituto Costarricense de Electricidad which has to supplement its hydro generators with those burning oil. Nearly all sectors of the country are unhappy with rising electricity prices, and president-elect Luis Guillermo Solís is seeking some solution to reduce the impact.

Industrial operators, who use a lot of power, have been complaining for years. But so have the tourism operators who are facing diminishing incomes. The rates are skewed to benefit households that use a limited amount of electricity.

Expats at the beach who depend on air conditioning are among those getting hit by higher and higher charges. Water prices also have posted a significant rise.

Public employee unions certainly will be in the line of march because they know that cutting jobs would be a quick way to reduce the national budget deficit. The annual deficit and the national debt are the two biggest challenges of the new administration.

When the new batch of lawmakers meet May 1, votes will be taken to name leaders from the president of the Asamblea Legislative to lesser offices. This vote is crucial to the success of the Solís administration. Legislative leaders set the priorities, name committees to study bills and supervise the flow of legislation.

All the political parties are involved now in an effort to form alliances so that they will prevail in the May 1 voting. Solís may be president, but he needs a compliant legislature if he expects to pass any new laws. The obvious alliances are either between the Partido Liberación Nacional and the Partido Acción Ciudadana or between Acción Ciudadana, the party of Solís, and the farther left Frente Amplio.

The president-elect already has been courting members of the minor parties in the legislature.

Solís will not be sworn in until May 8, also a Thursday and a week after the legislative reorganization. That event is expected to be in the new Estadio Nacional with delegations from most of the Western Hemispheric nations. Solís named his choices for many ministerial posts last week, and the selection continues for other appointive positions in the government agencies. Transitions teams already are at work.

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