By JAVIER CORDOBA
SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) — Voters gave a resounding no to an evangelical pastor who rose to political prominence by campaigning against same-sex marriage, allowing Costa Rica’s governing party to win an easy presidential victory.
While polls had indicated Sunday’s runoff would be tight, it was not even close. Carlos Alvarado, a novelist and former Cabinet minister running for the ruling Citizen Action Party, won by a wide margin.
The Supreme Electoral Council said that with 95 percent of ballots counted late Sunday, Carlos Alvarado had 60.8 percent of the votes, and evangelical Fabricio Alvarado of the National Restoration party had 39.2 percent. The two men are not related.
Fabricio Alvarado had been viewed as political also-ran when he entered the presidential contest, though he enjoyed high name recognition for his evangelism and for working on one of Costa Rica’s main TV newscasts. But he spoke out strongly against a call by the Inter-American Court of Human Rights for Costa Rica to allow same-sex marriage and he finished first in the election’s first round in February.
Carlos Alvarado, who finished second to get the final spot in the runoff, spoke in favor of letting gays wed.
The victor wrote in his Twitter account, “Let’s celebrate our 200 years of Independence with a government worthy and up to date with the times.”
“Today, the world is watching us and we sent a beautiful democratic message.”
In a speech to supporters, Fabricio Alvarado conceded defeat but said he raised the banner of “principles and values.”
“We are not sad, because we made history, because our message touched the country’s deepest nerves,” he said.
Andrea Rodriguez, who voted in a suburb of San Jose, the capital, expressed what a lot of Costa Ricans apparently felt, saying she backed Carlos Alvarado.
“I want a country in which we all have the same rights,” Rodriguez said. “It’s not fair that they keep discriminating, above all because they want to impose religious ideas.”
Francisco Barahona, a political science expert at the University of Costa Rica, said Fabricio Alvarado’s rise “a wake-up call for politicians, for the legislative assembly, for all the institutions, to take up the fight against poverty, because it is the poorest who are drawn to this kind of rhetoric,” Barahona said.
The two candidates shared similarities beyond their family name. Both have backgrounds in journalism and both have recorded music — Fabricio Alvarado as a gospel singer and Carlos Alvarado as a college-age rock ‘n’ roller.
Both candidates also had economic advisers who take a conservative approach to economics, favoring the free market and calling for a reduction in the size of government.