Here are some basic – as well as some unusual – facts about today’s elections:
All Costa Ricans who are at least 18 years of age are eligible to vote. There are more than 3 million registered voters in a country of 4.7 million inhabitants.
Voting is actually required under law, though the law has not been enforced for many years.
Naturalized citizens of Costa Rica are eligible to vote 12 months after receiving their naturalization certificate.
Voters will choose a new president, two vice presidents, and 57 members of the Legislative Assembly.
For the first time, Costa Ricans living abroad will be able to vote. There are about 200,000 Costa Ricans living abroad.
Polling stations open at 6am and close at 6pm.
Though the full official vote count will not be completed until February 14th, preliminary results will be announced as early as 8pm or 9pm this evening.
Under the constitution, a candidate must win 40% of the popular vote to win outright. If this doesn’t happen, the two leading candidates will compete in a runoff election, held on April 6th.
One leading candidate, Johnny Araya (PLN), comes from a presidential family. His uncle, Luis Alberto Monge was president of Costa Rica from 1982 to 1986.
Jose Maria Villalta of the leftist Broad Front (FA), is the youngest of the candidates at just 36 years old.
As a lawmaker, Villalta has presented more than 100 bills since 2010 – 10 of which were successfully passed into law.
Luis Guillermo Solis (PAC), studied history at the University of Costa Rica and has a master’s degree in Latin American Studies from Tulane University in the United States.
Solis was a member of the ruling PLN party until 2005, when he denounced the party for irregularities and corruption. He joined the PAC in 2009.
Costa Rica’s only civil war was the result of a disputed presidential election. It lasted for 44 days, between March 12th and April 24th, 1948, and some 2,000 people died. Costa Rica has not experienced any significant political violence since, and the country no longer maintains a military.