Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It’s Off To Vote We Go


Click on the images to enlarge.

Costa Rica votes in the Presidential election this Sunday and, bluntly, all we haven’t had so far is the seven dwarfs.

We’ve had one party’s candidate pull out claiming that his election backers were secretly in league with the candidate of another party…..the backers protesting their innocence and claiming that the now ex candidate had wanted to impose on them support for an ex President of Costa Rica caught with his hand in the till…..

We have had a four times married candidate decide to marry for the fifth time – one more heave, one might say – and send his new dentist wife round poor districts of the country offering free dentistry, working from a van painted in the party colours….

We have had the interesting revelation that two of the main contenders are under investigation for misuse of public funds and influence in one case and for breaking electoral funding law in the other while a third can proudly proclaim that his only brush with the law was being arrested on a demo….

One – the one with campaign funding questions dating back years – is proudly unmarrried and is trying to court the religious conservative vote…..whose party’s candidate is the man who succeeded the one who pulled out….

The internet is alive with photographs of the five times married candidate’s last campaign rally….his party’s photographs giving the impression of the main approach to San Jose filled by his exultant followers, other showing the said enthusiastic followers filling about one block in ten….

Foreign owned firms have issued ‘guidance’ to their workforce, warning of the danger of the loss of jobs if they vote for the candidate who was arrested on a demo…..

American expats are packing their gear in readiness should the demonstration attender be elected, firm in the belief that the Red Hordes will immediately invade their gated communities to loot their gas fired barbeques and end civilisation as they know it….

People generally are complaining that the parties are not sending out vans laden with material in the party colours to drape round their houses….that the parties are spending the money on undermining each other on the internet instead is not regarded as a good enough excuse….

And a newspaper has cancelled a last minute pre-election poll on the grounds that it would confuse voters so close to an election. Rumour has it that it showed that the candidate who has the support of the newspaper’s owners does not show up too well in said poll….

Apart from that, it’s like any other election: wild promises, backstabbing and dirty work at the crossroads.

What did interest me was an article in ‘La Nacion’ – the newspaper which cancelled the election poll – detailing the arrangements made for transporting the voters and feeding the volunteers on election day.

I’m all too familiar with the problem of getting out the vote, taught the dark arts of which first by my father, who remembered the days when the dead walked and the war cry was’vote early, vote often…’ and later by a superb Labour Party agent who was to meet an untimely death.
He knew his election law to the last nth – and he knew the ways of the voter with an uncanny prescience, like a hunter stalking his prey.


From the article there is a clear disparity between the parties of the better off and the others: the others lack transport.

This echoes the cry heard at every election, local or national, in the offices of the Constituency Labour Party and which I first heard as a child.
‘The Tories have cars!’

Indeed they did and their party workers could afford to run them.
It was a great advantage and one my grandfather on my mother’s side would do his bit to nullify.
He would arrange that I spent the day before the election with him and his wife – partly to be out from under my parents’ feet, partly for his own ends.

A cynical gentleman injured in the First World War he had had the distinction in the Second World War of being drummed out of his local Air Raid Warden service in that he did
A. Not get past the Rose and Crown with vital messages when on exercise resulting in the gasworks being (theoretically) blown up
B. Causing alarm and despondency by creeping up on gossiping housewives and bellowing ‘Gas!’ swinging his gas rattle the while.

So the bystander might have been surprised to see this spry but elderly gentleman stepping out on the evening before the elections, a child at his side carrying a wicker pannier…not quite his image.
But, long before Baldrick, he had a cunning plan…and it involved potatoes, not turnips.

From his somewhat doubtful knowledge of the internal combustion engine he had worked out that if the exhaust was blocked the car would not go, so as we strolled along on his predetermined and well researched path he would point out a car with a flick of his finger and my job was to crouch down as if adjusting my shoelaces, insert a potato in the exhaust and shove it up as far as possible with the small stick I carried in the pannier.
Not all the cars were parked on the road…some involved darts into gardens and I was coached that if approached by indignant householders I was to plead incontinence and shyness in equal parts.

As I recall I survived these evening strolls unscathed and was rewarded by a lemonade in the beer garden of his local pub before we returned home and the reproaches of his wife to the tune of ‘keeping the child up late and is that whisky I smell on your breath?’

Did it work? I have no idea.
Election day was spent with the house full of people comparing electoral rolls with the returns of the canvassers and the reports from the tellers outside the polling stations – grandfather despatching sorties to get out the votes from whichever part of the area appeared to be backsliding.


Which brings me to the other part of the article….the parties announcing how many volunteers they proposed to feed – and with what.
Grandmother sustained the troops on her wonderful victoria sponge cake and tea: in later life the Labour Party offices would be sustained on election day on sandwiches and cigarettes.

Costa Rica does it on a meal of arroz con pollo – literally rice with chicken – which strikes me as being a sort of chicken risotto using whole portions of poultry. Beats sandwiches hands down.
All parties bar one are serving their volunteers this traditional dish.

The exception is the party whose candidate is the one with problems with previous election finding, who refuses to marry and is courting the conservative religious vote.
They are supplying burritos..a flour tortilla with a filling of minced meat, cheese and salad with a tomato sauce.
We shall see whether these torpedo shaped recipes for indigestion propel him to victory or depthcharge his chances.

But not on Sunday.

For to win outright a candidate needs to obtain more than forty percent of the vote, and, from the polls published so far, barring skulduggery on the scale of Tammany Hall crossed with the European Union, no candidate is likely even to approach that figure.

So it will all need to be done again in April…and no, not on April 1st.

62 thoughts on “Heigh Ho, Heigh Ho, It’s Off To Vote We Go”

    1. Free? These buggers operate by selling bonds to their supporters which are repaid if the party gets enough votes to qualify for their expenses being met by the state, vetted by the Election Authority…so we might be paying for those burritos….

      In respect of the W.A. debacle I loved the delicacy of ‘misplaced’ in relation to votes cast…

  1. Good to see the US is not alone in their overabundance of ‘entertaining’ political candidates, although it doesn’t sound as though any of yours have sent photos of their private parts to women on Twitter. So you’ve got us beat there, I guess. 😉

    1. If they had done so you can be sure that the press would have suppressed all mention of misplaced genitalia on the part of the ‘business’ parties while hailing to the high hills those of the minor parties….

    1. I had had it with Obama before he began.
      What has he done since to stop the banks shafting the people who voted for him?
      The Costa Rican politicians are neither better nor worse than their counterparts elsewhere…but where do we have the politicians decent people deserve?

        1. We were on the plane from London to Madrid, prior to our connection Madrid to Costa Rica when the results were announced.
          An American chap came bouncing down the aisle proclaiming the Obama revolution and was most put out when my husband said that if Obama had won, it was because the financiers had let him…
          I won’t say QED…but subsequent events bear that out.

  2. I won’t even get into the Obama debate as this is a post about Costa Rica. However I would ask are there no vegetarians in CR? Neither pollo con arroz ni burritos would get my vote.

    My father drove for the local Tory party. I’m not sure why as he voted Liberal until Thatcher turned up and he finally went from yellow to blue. I think it was a pointless effort as he was carrying voters from the local council estate across the road, who were probably more interested in getting a ride in his posh Rover three litre than voting Tory. I don’t think he ever had a potato problem.

    The question is, which delightful candidate will you be voting for? And can you vote? In Spain, we can allegedly vote in the local elections as we are empadronarse, but at one election there was a problem (not in our village) where foreigners were turned away point blank. I see you have the Sunday voting syndrome there too.

    1. When you’ve been poor you want to eat meat, I think….
      There are vegetarian caffs and the staple mid day meal – the casada – is beans, rice, salad and a veg dish with whatever meat poultry or fish you want plonked on the top…but would do quite well as a vegetarian main as the salad is plentiful and good and the veg dish is always good too.

      No, I can’t vote in the national elections…but I know which one I’d be going for if I could and our car is on loan to his party on Sunday.

      1. My neighbour was brought up poor. Well, she was picking beans in the fields before her teens and didn’t go to school, hence she can’t read and write, and they pretty much lived on beans. She still doesn’t like meat. Or chicken. Or fish. She adds it grudgingly to the meals for the family. She is the epitomy of someone who lives a ‘peasant diet’. If she cooks meat from time to time for her husband, she’ll have bread and salad.

        But to bear out your theory, my father was pretty rationed with what he ate and loved lots of meat meals. My mother wasn’t rationed, her dad kept bantams, plus her mother was a good cook unlike my paternal grandmother, yet my mother ate little meat.

        We can’t vote in the national elections in Spain either. We can in Gib. I think I read something somewhere though that said it is only Gibbos and Brit residents. Must check that out.

        1. My friend Violetta was brought up on a finca where they ate anything edible and sold the cattle rather than eating them..she and her generation go for meat like a tribe of cannibals on a spree….

      1. Funny you say that, they are saddling up for the mud-slinging in the village as I type. I have to check that the strange lady I saw at the Mairie has got my name on the electoral list (she looked like she was one can short of a six pack, so I’m concerned).
        I was elected back in 2008 and I saw the backstage version of the elections – some peoples’ behaviour was so low, they dug their on political graves. I’m looking forward to this – most of the locals have ignored our existence since we arrived in the village so I can’t wait for them to come bleating for my vote. Now, where did I put those boxing gloves?….

        1. In the first commune I lived in a list has been set up calling itself Truth, Justice and No to Corruption…..in opposition to the list of the supporters of the last maire who was barred from public office after selling himself (through various shell companies) the village post office.
          It is led by a Belgian whom the last maire dobbed in it for nipping up to Belgium to buy secondhand cars (cheaper than in France) to sell on as a weekend sideline.
          I can’t be a fly on the wall, but friends are keeping me up to date with the state of play….

          Boxing gloves? Boiling oil more like….

  3. It all sounds par for the course. I love the story about the potatoes up the exhaust pipes. Would have been really funny if there had been a sardine poked up there first followed by the spud. Pooh! 🙂

  4. Ha ha! Laughed my socks off at the vision of the little girl, the potatoes and the pokey stick. :Sarah’s sardine suggestion – what a great idea. Totally off the subject, I did know of somebody who shoved a herring down the back of an enemy’s rear car seats many years ago ………………:D

    A friend whose brother was in politics used to say that she told people he played a piano in a brothel, as she was ashamed to admit the truth.

    1. Kipper tacked to the underside of a chair was a staple when I was at school…..as was garlic in the chalk box….

      Given the nature of current politicians would it surprise you of any of them if it turned out that they were playing pianos in brothels….

  5. You are fortunate to live in a place where the politics are so colourful. It provides great blog material. 🙂

    If a vote was to be cast strictly on entertainment value, the many times married candidate with the dentist wife would capture mine. The van painted in the party colours was a brilliant move.

    1. if he were to read your comment he would be making you a Costa Rican citizen in a flash and grabbing your vote…with a clean and polish of teeth thrown in if you played hard tp get…..

      French elections are pretty colourful…..especially the local ones!

    1. Only up on the heights around volcan Turrialba…and the slimy so and sos who control the potato business had spuds excluded from the Free Trade Treaty…so we’re still paying the earth for them.
      I’d have to use nampi here…..though they are even more expensive if you don’t grow them yourselves as we do.

  6. I would be a lot more fed up about not being allowed to vote here in Spain if there were anyone decent to vote for.
    In your case, loaning your car seems as good alternative to the vote you’re denied. Hope you don’t get anything nasty shoved up the exhaust!

    1. I suppose Spain must be like France: politicians running the continuum between mediocrity and downright idiocy….

      I’d better put some mesh over the exhaust! A lot of people don’t like my candidate….

    1. I think our canton is wet…given the character of the population it saves damage to property….

      So what happens to all the bars who are screening it? Serving beer in teapots?

  7. At least your elections are colourful enough to keep one awake, Helen. Although I’ve never yet failed to vote in an election when I’ve been able to, I hate the fact that I find the process less and less significant, when it should be the reverse. How we live together and organise ourselves matters immensely. Why can’t we find people who put that, rather than their own interests, first?

    1. My feeling is that current political parties don’t have as their mainspring the will to do anything for people in general: all seem to be motivated by the wish to rule, almost in an end as itself, in the interests of global business which will reward those involved with handouts and payoffs – outdoor relief for the ruling class.

      I believed strongly that we should not give up the right to vote which was so hard won….but i began to think about how our votes justified the maintenance in power of people and institutions which are totally unfit to govern and who have no sense of responsibility to the governed.

  8. I do so agree with what you say to Perpetua in your reply above. I don’t get to vote here but FR does, obviously, being Spanish, so I don’t feel like an expat without a voice. I was rather impressed with Russell Brand’s take recently, despite never having liked anything he’s said in the past.

    I loved this post – such astute criticism! And potatoes up the exhausts conjures up delightfully wicked images – I think I would have liked your Grandfather!
    It’s rather good, feeling as though I know a bit about Costa Rica politics from your words – my ears prick up at all sorts of different bits I hear on the news these days. Axxx

    1. Don’t you find that that is yet another of the good things about blogging…we hear or see something about a country in which previously we had no great interest, but when a fellow blogger lives there it starts to come to life for us!

      That grandfather was a wily old operator…..he was allowed to go to cricket matches at The Oval if he took me – when a bit older – as a sort of guarantee that he would not run amok and return home the worse for wear having ‘met up with an old mate’.
      Well, it worked up to a point. He would take me, he would buy our tickets and settle me on seating somewhere to the right of the pavilion under the eye of one of the women running a tea bar.
      I was provided with lemonade and a pork pie, the scorecard, pencil and whatever book I had brought with me and grandfather would vanish to one of the bars where he would inevitably ‘meet up with an old mate’.
      He would collect me at close of play and we would go home, grandfather reeking of mints – but not too obviously the worse for wear – and it was my job to bring him up to date on the day’s play so that he could make mint laden comments on it over a late supper.

      Or how it was that I became a cricket addict….

      1. You hit it on the head there, Helen.
        I think they made grandfathers differently in the past. Mine was wonderful too but unfortunately, didn’t venture far from home – or drink – so never really encouraged me in subversive ways. Shame, I’d have liked that! Axxx

        1. My father’s father was very old when I knew him but he still kept the farm going – we all suspected that it was his way of getting out of the way of his wife – a formidable old bat.
          Though my father used to say that she had changed almost overnight from the happy, light hearted mother he remembered when young when she lost his older brothers in the First World War.

  9. Helen, as always, astute and entertaining. The most poignant thing for me though, is your reply to one of the comments ‘where are the politicians that decent people deserve?’ Yes, just where are they? In this world of absorbed self-interest, where are the people who, given political power, would invest in the talents and creativity of their people in order that everyone, not just the privileged or corrupt few, can enjoy a better quality of life? Do such people exist?

    1. Well, you would aim for abetter quality of life for all…I just bet your friends would too….but inside the existing political parties it is impossible to reach a position to do so.

      Civil disobedience is always an option…but few are the people who can contemplate having their property expropriated by the state for so doing…it’s hard to lose what you’ve worked for.

      I can only grope toward a solution…that we talk to each other, encourage those with guts and independence to stand for office – and don’t cut the knees from under them once they are there – recognise that peaceful change is a slow process.

      However, my feeling is, seeing British police forces asking to be equipped with water cannon, that even peaceful dissent will be crushed with brutality – in which case start turning your decorate ironwork into swords!

  10. Tsk, my few SNP elections when 16/17 never saw such skulduggery! Of course there were more cars then but most folks walked to vote, and potatoes were expensive and lunch!
    How nice to know democracy is afloat in Costa Rica, and the word ‘Backhander’ is never used.

    1. Thank you!
      Of the four, two are safely on their mums and trotting about after them: we lost one, the weakest, this morning, and one is battling on though it’s the very devil to feed him as he has no idea how to suck, though he thinks the Alsatian is his mother.
      Fingers crossed for him.

  11. Oh my – I do feel I’d rather stuff the potatoes up the politicians’ arses. We are being warned to take our own pens to the polls as the ones provided my prove to be erasable.

  12. Sounds like your politicians are corrupt on a scale that must make the relatively squeaky-clean British politicians green with envy. Though they certainly display their fair share of “wild promises, backstabbing and dirty work at the crossroads”. If there’s one thing that distinguishes our lot, it’s their endless lying about everything. You really can’t believe a word they say, and if they’re caught out they just act dumb.

    “Vote early, vote often” was common advice in Northern Ireland’s gerry-mandering past. Nowadays though there are very tight rules on voter ID.

    1. They are nothing in the corruption stakes to French politicians….mere amateurs!
      What amused me was the five times married one scuttling off to the national basilica to claim the support of the BVM!

      As to the lying, who exactly is going to bring them to book? there isn’t an effective mechanism as even a general election just replaces one bunch of liars with another.

      And vote early vote often was not confined to N.I….these days the problem in the U.K. seems to be postal votes. I wonder what my grandfather would have made of that menace!

  13. Off this evening to say goodbye to our mayor with a few drinks. Now we have the excitement of voting for our new mayor coming up. It makes me laugh, we live in a hamlet of 10 houses and half the French who live here do not speak to each other because they are different parties! Luckily they all talk to us but we have to be careful who we ask around at the same time!!! Hope all is well Diane

    1. It’s like treading on eggshells isn’t it!
      Most of the time we were ‘excused boots’ on the village feuds, but election time was distinctly dangerous on the tact front!

      All is well…the bottle fed lamb has survived a week and follows Leo everywhere, even outside to feed the chickens.

  14. Oh Helen. I had to read your post out loud to my husband – who appreciated it greatly.
    I loved it all. But the Labour Party bit – that truly resonates.
    I was a local election agent for Dr John Reid (yes, I know) late 80s and throughout the 90s. ‘Getting the vote out’ was the sole purpose. And it was my job to organise cars and minibuses – scanning the electoral registers and ensuring that Auld Jimmy or Betty or Nancy or Nellie made it to the station for their cake and tea. Oh – and to cast their vote. Shotts polling station was an absolutely wonderful place to be. There was an air of the carnival about it. We activists took over the staffroom of the Primary School. The adrenalin high! All the gossip and closeness. The contempt for the Conservative and Unionists and for the SNP. The suspicion and semi-contempt for our own candidate who tried too hard with his ‘sincere working class’ act…
    I never forgot the solemnity of it all though. I remember being given the scrutineer’s honour (and I still feel that it was an honour) of watching the red wax being dripped onto the black metal ballot boxes – sealing them at close of election. And of then travelling as fast as we could to the central election count and of watching the votes roll in…
    I’m not active now.
    I resigned my party card only three days ago.
    But elections still fill me with that mix of excitement and hope and fear and solemnity…
    Thanks Helen. I just wish Costa Rica was not as far away… you’d be sick of my visits!

  15. I miss the engagement of it all….but the only type of engagement possible with New Labour is when armed with a Kalashnikov.
    The betrayal…the corruption…the ruination of the future of so many children….

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