Does Costa Rica Need a Democratic Adjustment?

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    September is the month when Costa Rica celebrates its independence, but is also the month of International Independence Day.

    International Independence Day is an effort to promote independence and democracy around the globe.

    Ban Ki-Moon, secretary general of the United Nations, asserts that:

    [quote_center]”On International Independence Day, progress and civic participation go hand in hand. A confident nation gives a voice to the citizens and allows them to participate in the development of the country.” [/quote_center]

    The Index of Democratic Development of Latin America was created by Economist Magazine in 2014; it evaluates 165 countries and takes into account processes such as elections, pluralism, civil rights, government functionality, participation and political culture. Recent ferial celebrations bring to light Costa Rica’s position at number 25 according to the Index.

    Nevertheless, political analysts are certain that Costa Rica can improve its position.

    Carlos Murillo, one such analyst, stated that these indices only reflect one part of the reality. He added that these same reports have shown that citizens across the globe are becoming less confident in their electoral mechanisms with each passing year. While this doesn’t mean that the mechanisms don’t exist, it translates into inappropriate mechanisms for a country’s modern needs.

    TSE, The Costa Rican Epitome of Fair Elections

    Given the worldwide situation of doubt, one major strength of the Costa Rican government is their fourth branch dedicated solely to matters of election: The Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones (TSE).

    According to their website:

    [quote_box_center]At a historic juncture in which the disrespect to the polls resulted in a conflict, constituents [drafting the 1949 constitution] chose to design the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones with guarantees of independence and professionalism from the new group. The model of Costa Rican electoral organization constituted a milestone in Latin American public law, because in practical terms the TSE acquired the status of fourth power of the State, being analogous to the Legislative, the Executive and the Judiciary [branches of government].[/quote_box_center]

    Magistrates of this special branch are appointed by members of the Supreme Court. During election times, the number of magistrates is increased from three to five. Each TSE magistrate has the same requirements and conditions as a judiciary judge.

    Why Still Number 25?

    According to The Economist’s Index, Costa Rica may score high in categories such as “electoral process and pluralism” and “civil liberties,” but there is definitely room for improvement in terms of “political participation” and “political culture.”

    Just prior to the 2014 Election, the University of Pittsburgh published a report titled “Unfavorable Conditions for Political Participation in Costa Rica.” While the study admits:

    [quote_center]“The small Central American nation has been widely known as a very successful case of political stability in a region of the world where democracies have typically been featured as weak and vulnerable political regimes.”[/quote_center]

    It also concedes:

    [quote_center]“Political culture studies have provided compelling evidence suggesting that [Costa Rican] support for democracy has eroded, undermining the pillars of political legitimacy.”[/quote_center]

    [quote_box_right]Read more: Politically Active Youth Ready to See Change.[/quote_box_right]

    So where is the country headed? While the voter turnout for the latest election was 26 points less than that of 20 years ago, the upcoming generation seems to side with political analysts; both groups seem optimistic that Costa Rica can indeed improve.

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