A left-leaning former diplomat edged ahead in Costa Rica’s presidential election on Sunday, riding a wave of disgust at government corruption to get within reach of wresting power from the centrist government in an April run-off.
Luis Guillermo Solis, an academic who has never been elected to office, had a slim lead over ruling party candidate Johnny Araya despite trailing in pre-election polls and early vote returns.
Araya was seen as the front-runner ahead of the vote, but his campaign was hurt by corruption scandals that plagued President Laura Chinchilla’s administration.
Solis, who ran on an anti-corruption ticket, won 30.9 percent support on Sunday compared to 29.6 percent for Araya with returns in from around 82 percent of polling centers.
Left-wing lawmaker Jose Maria Villalta was in third place with 17.2 percent. His supporters could help carry Solis to victory in the run-off against Araya, although votes from a host of smaller parties who commanded around a quarter of the tally on Sunday will also be fought over.
A Solis victory in the run-off would mark another triumph for center-left parties which have gained ground in much of Latin America in recent years.