SAN JOSE – Political centrist Luis Guillermo Solis was elected president of Costa Rica in a runoff vote Sunday, becoming the first third-party candidate to win in decades.
Solis won nearly 78 percent of the vote, electoral officials said with 92 percent of polling stations reporting.
Solis defeated ruling party candidate Johnny Araya, who dropped out last month after surveys showed he would be soundly defeated. Araya’s name however remained on the ballot.
“Today the people have spoken, and have chosen their president,” said Supreme Electoral Council chief Luis Antonio Sobrado.
As the candidate of the moderate Citizen Action Party, Solis, 55, was a surprise winner of the first-round vote on Feb. 2 from a field of four.
Araya was the candidate of the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN), which has lost popularity over allegations of widespread corruption and economic mismanagement under outgoing President Laura Chinchilla.
Political power in this small country of about 5 million has traditionally been traded between the social democratic PLN and the Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC).
The scandals however have tarnished both of the leading parties as well as the two-party system in Costa Rica, Latin America’s oldest democracy.
“I will not let you down. The people have spoken,” Solis said at the end of the long day of voting.
He later effusively thanked his supporters via Twitter.
Solis will be the first third-party candidate to win the Costa Rican presidency in 50 years.