Costa Rica

Costa Rica Public Policy

North America

Current policy

Costa Rica is a country located in the region of North America. The bipartisan system that practically prevailed in Costa Rica for decades was broken in 2014, when the presidential election was won by the center-left Party Citizens Action (PAC). Despite quite dissatisfaction with the government, PAC’s candidate also won in the 2018 presidential election, when the decisive round came against an arch-conservative candidate. When President Carlos Alvarado took office, he put a fossil-free Costa Rica at the top of the agenda.

When he took office in May 2018, Carlos Alvarado was only 38 years old and thus the youngest head of state in Latin America. He is a journalist and writer and was for one year labor minister in the government of the representative Luis Guillermo Solí.

Alvarado’s government became the first woman-dominated government in Costa Rica. Among the women is Vice President Epsy Campbell, who is the first Vice President in Latin America with African roots. She also became the first female foreign minister in Costa Rica.

In his inaugural speech, Alvarado said that Costa Rica will be one of the first – if not the first – country in the world to completely switch to renewable energy. Other challenges for the government were the growing budget deficit which is above 6 percent of GDP. Another problem is the increasing crime rate, in 2017 603 people were murdered. It still means a low homicide rate compared to other countries in the region, but was the highest number so far in Costa Rica.

Costa Rica

Split political landscape

Alvarado needs support from other parties to get through its policies. The Citizens’ Action (PAC) lost three seats in the parliamentary elections and has only ten seats in the Legislative Assembly.

The 2018 presidential election solidifies the image of a new and unpredictable political landscape in Costa Rica. The two candidates who received the most votes in the first round were not even among the three favorite tipped candidates. B ara weeks before elections in February, gay rights unexpectedly a hot election issue. The reason was that the OAS Human Rights Tribunal (see Foreign Policy and Defense) issued a ruling that called for Costa Rica and other countries in the region to legalize same-sex marriage. This led to a strong upswing for Fabricio Alvarado and the National Restoration Party (PRN), a small Christian right-wing party. Fabricio Alvarado got the most votes in the first round of the presidential election and the PRN went from 1 to 14 seats in the legislative assembly.

Fabricio Alvarado’s social conservative attitude obviously won him a lot of support but also aroused a strong backlash. His opponent in the decisive round of the presidential election, PAC candidate Carlos Alvarado (the two are not related), won by 61 percent of the vote. The PAC thus managed – fairly unsubtly – to retain the presidential power for a second term in a row. In the Legislative Assembly, however, the party backed down, from 13 to 10 seats.

PLN backs

The PAC has been formed by defectors from the long-dominant National Liberation Front (PLN), which is basically social democratic but which has moved right. The PLN has traditionally been seen as a guarantor of the welfare system that the Costa Ricans are proud of. At the same time, PLN was running a market-liberal policy in the office of the Government of the Republic and largely relied on members to the right of the congress, as well as having the PAC as the main opponent. In the 2014 election, PLN lost a quarter of its mandate and the 2018 election is described as the worst in PLN’s history.

When the corona pandemic hit the world in the spring of 2020, Costa Rica introduced other restrictions, as well as investing in strengthening health care resources. Costa Rica at least initially managed very well from the infection and by the end of May, only about 900 corona cases had been registered and ten deaths in covid-19 were reported.

Read more about the events in the Calendar.


Official name

La Republic of Costa Rica / Republic of Costa Rica


republic, unitary state

Head of State and Government

President Carlos Alvarado (2018–)

Most important parties with mandates in the last election

National Liberation Party (PLN) 17, National Restoration Party (PRN) 14, Citizens’ Action (PAC) 10, Christian Social Unity Party (Pusc) 9, National Integration Party (PIN) 4, Others 3 (2018)

Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections

National Liberation Party (PLN) 18, Citizens’ Action (PAC) 13, Broad Front (FA) 9, Christian Social Unity Party (Pusc) 8, Libertarian Movement (ML) 4, Others 5 (2014)


68% in the parliamentary elections and the 1st round of the 2018 presidential election

Upcoming elections

presidential and parliamentary elections 2022