The Republic of Costa Rica is a democracy with strong presidential power. The 1949 Constitution states that the country should have no army. The Costa Ricans have since lived in peace and relative prosperity, despite violent upheavals in neighboring countries.
The president, who is both head of state and government, is elected together with two vice presidents in general elections every four years. For victory in the first round, at least 40 percent of the votes are required, otherwise there will be a second round between the two candidates who received the most votes. A president may not run for re-election directly, but may return after a two-term term of office.
- Countryaah: Total population and chart of Costa Rica for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.
The Legislative Assembly (asamblea legislative) consists of a chamber of 57 members. These are elected in proportionate elections held at the same time as the presidential election. The president can veto bills, but the parliament can veto a two-thirds majority of the president. A member cannot be re-elected directly. At least 40 percent of the candidates on the party lists must be women. Formally, citizens are required to vote from the age of 18, but that means nothing in practice.
Short for CR by Abbreviationfinder, Costa Rica is divided into seven provinces led by governors appointed by the president. There are 81 municipalities, or cantons, with directly elected mayors. The public administration includes a number of state but autonomous companies such as the telephone and electricity company ICE and the insurance company INS. Their former monopoly position ceased after Costa Rica’s accession to the DR-Cafta free trade agreement (see Economic overview), but they still have a dominant position in their fields.
Costa Rica has for a long time had a two-party system, but in recent years the picture has become much more multifaceted.
The largest and long-dominant party is basically the Social Democratic National Liberation Party (Partido liberación nacional, PLN). Many Costa Ricans associate PLN with the Costa Rican welfare state but the party has moved towards the center. Internal contradictions between traditionalists and proponents of market economy renewal contributed to the party losing for the first time two consecutive elections around the turn of the millennium. In the 2006 election, however, former President and Peace Prize laureate Óscar Arias returned from the PLN and the party retained power until 2014.
In the 2014 election, however, Luis Guillermo Solís, who previously belonged to the PLN but switched to the Citizens ‘ Action (Partido acción ciudadana, PAC), won. The PAC appeared on the political arena ahead of the 2002 election and quickly received great support. PAC was formed by defectors from PLN who wanted to hold on to the social democratic tradition. The party opposes neoliberalism and profiled at the outset of opposition to the DR-Cafta free trade agreement. The PAC retained the presidential power in the 2018 election but backed down somewhat in Parliament (see further Current Policy).
One party that came as a rocket in the 2018 election is the National Restoration Party (Parido de restauración nacional, PRN). The party candidate unexpectedly won the first round but lost in the second. The PRN was formed in 2005 and has strong support among the country’s Protestant minority.
The PLN’s main opponent was formerly the Christian Democratic Christian Social Unity Party (Partido unidad social cristiana, Pusc). Pusc is more market liberal than PLN but still acted slowly in terms of economic liberalization during its reign. The party was in power in 1998–2006, but a corruption scandal during the last term of office contributed to the party being subsequently marginalized (see Modern history).
The Broad Front (Frente amplio, FA) is a left-wing party that became the third largest party in 2014 but almost fell out of Parliament in the next elections.
The Libertarian Movement (Partido movimiento libertario, ML) is a right-wing party that advocates tax cuts, individual freedom and the privatization of state monopolies. It was founded in the 1990s by Otto Guevara who has been the party’s presidential candidate in all elections since 2002. However, ML dropped out of parliament in 2018.