The Withdrawal Method


To no one’s surprise there was no outright winner in the first round of the Costa Rican Presidential election in February…..but the leader by one percentage point was a total surprise…a dark horse who ran up on the rails to win by a nose.

His party has been in the doldrums for years under the leadership of its founder and the new candidate wasn’t expected to change things…but people who did not want a continuation in power of the ruling party but who were frightened of the mildly left wing candidate flocked to his support and so he came to the line one point ahead of the five – times – married- and – this – time – to -a – dentist candidate of the ruling party.

So these two gentlemen settled down to campaign for the final vote on 6th April: the mystery candidate tried drumming up votes in areas where his party had polled badly; the much married candidate hung around the bishops while his party hinted that the success of his opponent was what was causing instability in the exchange rate….in other words, campaigning as usual until the bombshell struck yesterday, on Ash Wednesday.

One of the gentlemen had been listening to God.

And God had told him that he should withdraw from the campaign, so that was what he was doing.

He elaborated, of course. For his style of politician the Word of God can always be improved upon with a few PR techniques.

He had realised that it was in the national interest to withdraw, allowing the nation the best chance of facing the coming time of economic trial in tranquility and offering his services to the future President.

Thus he bowed out, leaving a nation making its plans for how to spend the 6th April, suddenly become free.

All except for one man. The head of the Election Tribunal who had to put his oar in.
The Costa Rican Constitution forbids anyone to withdraw from the second round of the Presidential election…so the vote on April 6th must go ahead as planned.

The possibility of farce lies before us…..

Should by some chance the candidate who has withdrawn win the vote on April 6th he will, despite withdrawing, be President of Costa Rica.
So, if the Almighty should so guide him that he decided to withdraw his withdrawal- after all he had withdrawn as a Presidential candidate, not as a President – he could be installed in power.
And no that is not a quibble, just ask any passing Jesuit.

What if the Almighty stuck to His guns and over ruled casuistry?
Then he would withdraw.

So the mystery candidate would then be President?

Not according to the head of the Election Tribunal, rumoured to be close to the withdrawn candidate’s party.
The President would then be the man who was named by the withdrawn candidate before he withdrew as his first Vice President should he be elected President.

A man no one had voted for at all.

Trusting that the above has made things as clear as muck, let us look at the factors that the Almighty might have taken into consideration in giving His advice.

Firstly, the candidate who withdrew represents the ruling party who have been in power for eight years and have presided over corruption scandals that would have been notable even for a banana republic.
I was tempted to add ‘or for France’ but that would be tautologous.

Secondly, his candidacy had upset the Arias brothers who regarded the party as their very own fief.
Oscar Arias, while President of Costa Rica, won the Nobel Peace Prize in 1987 for his work in improving democratic practices in Central America by the signing of the Esquipulas II Accords – the groundwork for which was laid, interestingly enough, by the current mystery candidate in the Presidential elections.

His supporters later engineered the overthrow of a constitutional amendment banning ex Presidents from standing again for office and he was elected by a narrow majority to the Presidency again in 2006.
He was succeeded as President by Laura Chinchilla – one of his ex ministers whom he thought he had under control – as it might have appeared tactless to put up his brother Rodrigo – his enforcer while in power – to succeed him immediately.
Chinchilla was to keep the seat warm for him.

As it turns out, she kept it red hot: corruption scandals galore have kept even the conservative Costa Rican press abuzz and to add insult to injury, the party rejected brother Rodrigo as their candidate and chose the much – married – and – now – to – a dentist Mayor of San Jose instead…the candidate who has just withdrawn.

Who could whistle for support from the Arias wing of the party – where a lot of the money lies.

Thirdly, and in consequence of the above, his election campaign was running out of money. If he spent any more and lost the election his party would be looking down the back of the sofa for some years to come.
By withdrawing, however, and in such ambiguous circumstances as outlined by the head of the Elections tribunal, his opponent would be forced to keep on spending to be sure of a respectable mandate in the case of victory, thus transferring the back of the sofa activites.

And finally, a lack of political judgement. A catastrophic lack.
Just like Jospin in France, he underestimated his opponents and let an outsider into contention.
In Jospin’s case, Le Pen of the pariah Front National party….in his case, the mystery candidate from a party considered finished.
Too arrogant to do the hard slog of campaigning, the endless meetings and television appearances, he reckoned his main danger came from the mildly left wing candidate who he was sure to be able to knock out by the usual Reds Under the Bed formula – as indeed he did.
I couldn’t turn on my computer without a Red Peril video coming up on the screen and that campaign certainly affected his chances….but his potential voters did not just drop out, or vote for the ruling party – they found another candidate.
A candidate totally overlooked.

We shall see what we get on 6th April.
The mystery candidate promises transparency and improved equality….he’ll have a hard fight on his hands and, should he win, I hope that people will cut him some slack, for, not only in Costa Rica but in all countries we dearly need to elect people from outside the self perpetuating elites if we are ever to recover the liberties our not so far off ancestors fought so hard to win.

But one thing niggles…..when the much married one withdrew, he offered his services to the new government….
I sincerely hope that there has been no opaque agreement made with him, not even one made on the lines of the immortal Yosser


37 thoughts on “The Withdrawal Method”

  1. Never a dull moment at election time!
    Costa Rica usually seems to pass under the international radar in everything except tourism, so it’s nice to give a little counter blast from time to time.

  2. Oh wow what a muddle but I am sure that the Almighty will come to the rescue and sort things out. The thing is though will the way He sorts it out be to everyone’s liking. Waiting in anticipation for the final result. Keep well you two, Diane

  3. I’m surprised you have the energy to write about it. I despair of our political systems. And our politicians. And our electorates. And ……

    I used to read a lot about Latin American politics when I bought Spanish newspapers but I’m out of touch now, so your updates are a great read.

    1. Must be a political masochist…..but, as in any country in which I have lived, these so and sos will affect my life, so I like to know how much damage they intend to inflict on me….

  4. You did mention banana republic somewhere, didn’t you?
    Sounds like a jolly good real life farce to me. And one can afford to snigger because C.R. – of which I know nothing but what I read in your blog – is small and insignificant and allows us to behave in the usual imbecilic fashion of ridiculing that which we don’t admit happens on our own doorstep.
    Although, come to think of it, no politician I know would willingly give up a chance at ruling the roost, any roost.

    Dirty deeds afoot, methinks.

    1. You should see the newspaper comment columns!
      Conspiracy theory rules O.K.!

      But you are so right….we don’t want to admit to what happens on our own doorstep…because we might feel we had to do something about it if we did.

  5. Oh, boy. This stuff is better than “Dallas”! I love the way you tell it, Helen – you make international politics fun.
    Local politics are taking off in France now – shucks, you’re missing all the fun. I’m off to buy some popcorn, sit back and enjoy the fight.

    1. What fascinates me is how the bishops – R.C. ones that is – don’t have a problem with a man who has been married four times and then again just before the elections.
      They could have been listening to the new Pope’s views on behaving charitably to sinners…but somehow I doubt it.

      I’m enjoying news of the local elections in France from friends…plenty of dirty work at the crossroads!

  6. I suspect you could just swap the names – Cameron, Clegg and, er, the other one – and it would just be like being back in Blighty.

    1. The only difference being that if any of that lot withdrew from an election it would only be because of a scandal even they couldn’t cover up…but this chap seems to have done it on the cold grounds of weighing what money he had against his chances of winning.
      And people think Costa Rica is corrupt….

  7. Well well, God certainly has a lot to answer for! The scandal and corruption is not much different to what’s going on here. And our esteemed prime minister also has a knack of blaming everyone but himself or his party when things go wrong, or as recently happened, when he gets caught out. And then he tries to stop people talking about it, hence strong rumours Facebook and Youtube are about to be banned. No wonder we don’t trust politicians…not an honest one amongst them.

    1. He knows the danger posed by the social media…..the fury when he tries to control the judiciary….the blind eye that has to be turned to corruption close to home.
      What a society!

  8. Labyrinthine indeed!

    At present I’m enjoying the clear as muck side of things here in Charnizay– an alternative list of 15 [including moi] are having a tilt at removing the current conseil municipal which has not covered itself in glory.
    Doubt we stand a snowflake in hell’s chance but I’ll let you know. I will report my adventures on our blog once elections are over.

  9. On first reading, I followed things up to the withdrawn one having to be on the ballot on 6 April, then I got buried in the mire of all that has gone on, and presumably will continue to go on. 2nd reading clarified some of it…… I have decided that a third attempt might resolve more for me, but it probably doesnt matter if i’m confused, as I am sure everyone in Costa Rica is in the same boat. Agghhhhhh. Jx

    1. All the mainstream commentators are saying how important it is that a candidate can’t withdraw his name from the ballot paper as otherwise candidates could be pressured into retiring…..

      The mystery candidate is saying that he needs a hefty percentage vote to give his government legitimacy….

      And on the ground people are saying why waste all that money on the poll on 6th April…..they aren’t the least interested in the principle of the thing, just want it all over.
      But I have the impression there will be a good turn out all the same, despite the grumbling.

  10. All right I won’t complain so much about Cameron and Miliband. At least since Tony Blair none of our politicians are in terribly close touch with God.

    1. There is one thing for which to be thankful…this one is nowhere near so potentially lethal as Tony Blair.
      Sorry for the delay in replying…Wordpress struck again.

  11. And we think politics is complicated here in the UK! It’s simplicity itself compared with the shenanigans you’ve described. Wheels within wheels within wheels….

    1. Nick, have a look at The Slog blog….you might find that the bus has a few more wheels than is generally thought…
      I hope you don’t drop on it on one of his mad joke days ut, in general, there’s food for thought.

  12. I have just read this at the end of a long and rather tiring day. I don’t understand. It seems ridiculous – not your telling, of course – but I am going to sleep on it. Maybe tomorrow I will understand better….What do you think?

    1. You need a good night’s sleep for this one!

      You have a candidate who says he’s not going to campaign any more….but his name has to be on the paper…and if he’s elected he’s President unless he decides not to be in which case the man who would have been his deputy becomes President…despite nobody having voted for him!

      And now – having withdrawn – he is doing a tour of the country ‘to thank those who voted for him in the first round’ while his campaign team are demanding to be allowed to debate with the mystery candidate’s campaign team on television!

      You could not make it up!

      1. You certainly couldn’t – and I suspect, no one else captures it quite a s succinctly as you do. I shall be watching the news with interest. Axxx

  13. Talk about a looking-glass world, Helen. Believing six impossible things before breakfast is child’s play in comparison with this. 🙂 I await the result with bated breath.

    1. I can only regard it as a blessing that I grew up on Alice and spent years in France…it enables me to contemplate all this with equanimity.

      Well, most of the time….

  14. Ah. Fabulous commentary. Though it would be less depressing if it wasn’t actually happening.
    Sounds as if you are having as much political entertainment as we are having here in Scotland with the Indyref…

    1. Every day some new announcement….you don’t have time to be bored!

      Things have moved on…..he now says he didn’t withdraw – watch my lips – just did not go on campaigning!

      There are some pretty desperate people in the higher echelons of his party…a whopping road contract with China being pushed through the National Assembly before the election…and I suspect a lot of tickets being booked to somewhere without an extradition treaty – refundable ones, just in case he wins.

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