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Should by some chance the candidate who has withdrawn win the vote on April 6th he will, despite withdrawing, be President of Costa Rica.
So, if the Almighty should so guide him that he decided to withdraw his withdrawal- after all he had withdrawn as a Presidential candidate, not as a President – he could be installed in power.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