Conservative Christian singer and TV anchor Fabricio Alvarado was leading in Costa Rica’s presidential election on Sunday, after galvanizing the campaign with his sharp opposition to gay marriage.
With results in from more than a third of ballot boxes, Alvarado had won 26.3 percent of the vote, said the electoral tribunal. Banana industry entrepreneur Antonio Alvarez Desanti of the mainstream National Liberation Party was in second place with 19.8 percent of the votes.
If no candidate wins at least 40 percent of the vote, a run-off election with the top two finishers is set for early April.
The 43-year-old Alvarado, the lone elected lawmaker for the evangelical National Restoration Party, skyrocketed to first place in the campaign after denouncing a court ruling calling on Costa Rica to give civil marriage rights to same-sex couples.
Alvarado called last month’s ruling by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights a violation of Costa Rica’s sovereignty and an affront to traditional values.
“We have to stand up to those who want to trample on the family,” he said during the final debate of the campaign. He has threatened to pull Costa Rica out of the court, which is based in the country’s capital, San Jose.
Rival Alvarez has said that, while he personally opposes the court’s decision, he would respect it if he wins.
Even though Costa Rica’s 3.3 million voters mostly describe themselves as conservative, the shift in support towards issue-based politics and relative outsiders has been a shock for some.
The coffee exporting country famed for its environmental stewardship has long offered a moderate two-party system and more stability than other countries in politically volatile Central America.
“I’ve been surprised by the growth of minority parties,” said voter Olman Gomez, 49, a computer network engineer. “It feels like you’re living in another country in terms of politics.”
President Luis Guillermo Solis, a former diplomat and history professor, won in a landslide four years ago but has seen his popularity fall as an investigation into an influence peddling scandal has unfolded.
He is barred by law from seeking a second consecutive term.
The candidate for Solis’ party, Carlos Alvarado, trailed in third place in the field of 13 presidential hopefuls, with 16 percent of the vote. REUTERS reports.