For only the second time in its history, Costa Rica on Monday began preparing for a presidential runoff after dark horse center-left hopeful Luis Guillermo Solis picked up the most votes in the initial balloting.
With 89 percent of the ballots counted, Solis has 30.95 percent of the vote, the candidate of the governing centrist PLN, Johnny Araya, stands at 29.56 percent.
The runoff is set for April 6.
Visibly tired after a long election day on Sunday, Solis held a press conference at which he announced that he will open a dialogue with different sectors with an eye toward the second round.
"We want to establish a dialogue with the whole country. We are obligated to establish in the next two months dialogues of different kinds with movements, organizations, personalities and political parties," he said.
He said that in these conversations he will not negotiate doling out government posts in a possible Solis administration and that the process will be held with complete transparency.
"Costa Ricans have placed in the center of the political debate an axis that runs from continuity to change and it's a mandate that clearly comes from the results," said Solis, who emphasized that he is taking the situation with "deep responsibility and respect."
The leader of the PAC party reaffirmed his premises for a possible presidential term, namely "to create prosperity through economic growth, the fair distribution of wealth and a transparent use of public resources."
Oddly, Johnny Araya will go through the same process as his brother Rolando, who in 2002, also as a candidate for the PLN, had to face off against psychiatrist Abel Pacheco, who ultimately won that election, in a runoff.
Costa Rica's electoral code requires a full manual recount if there is a difference of less than 2 percent between the two top vote-getters.
The chairman of the TSE election tribunal, Luis Antonio Sobrado, said the recount will begin tomorrow and is expected to take two weeks. EFE