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05SANJOSE1721 2005-07-29 23:01:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy San Jose
Cable title:  

COALITIONS ATTEMPT TO CHALLENGE TRADITIONAL

Tags:   PGOV PREL SOCI CS 
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					  UNCLAS SECTION 01 OF 03 SAN JOSE 001721 

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN BBOYNTON

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV PREL SOCI CS
SUBJECT: COALITIONS ATTEMPT TO CHALLENGE TRADITIONAL
PARTIES

REF: A. SAN JOSE 1298

B. SAN JOSE 1408

C. SAN JOSE 3042

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SUMMARY
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1. Voters, disappointment with the two traditional
political parties may give several newly-formed parties the
opportunity to capture a significant number of votes in the
2006 Presidential and Legislative Assembly elections. While
these newly-formed parties are organizing coalitions to
exploit this opportunity, ideological differences and
personal ambitions may hinder their ability to form a
significant political bloc. Local cantonal parties are
working to revitalize politics at the grassroots levels. END
SUMMARY.



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Traditional Parties Face Exodus, Internal Division


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2. The 2004 corruption scandals marked an important turning
point in the political landscape. The resulting
disillusionment has leaders within each of the two
traditional political parties struggling to maintain cohesion
in the run-up to the 2006 elections. Several National
Liberation Party (PLN) principals have left the party to form
their own groups. The Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC) is
also struggling to quell internal disputes, and there are at
least two distinct groups whose differences on the party,s
platform appear irreconcilable.



3. In addition to the two traditional political parties,
five new national parties registered to participate in the
2006 elections (reftels A, B, and C). Eleven new provincial
and thirteen new cantonal (local) parties were also
registered. The five new national parties, which are
eligible to run presidential, legislative, and local
government candidates are: Nationalist Democratic Alliance
(headed by Jose Miguel Villalobos, a former PUSC minister);
Homeland First (headed by Juan Jose Vargas, a former
Citizens, Action Party (PAC) legislator who left the party
and is now an independent in the Legislative Assembly);
National Union (headed by the former human rights Ombudsman
and PUSC party member, Jose Manuel Echandi); Union for Change
(headed by Antonio Alvarez-Desanti, a former PLN minister and
president of the Legislative Assembly); and Patriotic Union
(headed by Jose Miguel Corrales, current independent
legislator and former PLN presidential candidate (1998) and
legislator).



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Smaller Parties Look To Form Coalitions


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4. Smaller political parties are forming coalitions in hopes
of drawing support away from the PUSC and PLN by presenting a
viable alternative to voters who are tired of the traditional
party leaders and their lack of an articulated platform. The
Electoral Code establishes that two or more political parties
may formally register coalitions until October 21 (election
day is February 6, 2006). Informal coalitions can form at
any time. According to Justice Luis Sobrado from the Supreme
Electoral Tribunal (TSE), with a few exceptions neither
formal nor informal coalitions have had real impact during
the last fifty years. Undaunted, the Patriotic Union Party
and the Nationalist Democratic Alliance formed the Great
National Alliance (GANA) on June 17, in an effort to
consolidate their bases of support and become a serious
political contender for the presidential vote. Five
left-wing parties have also organized into the United Left
(IU) coalition.



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The Left Is Still Struggling For Significance


--------------------------




5. During the 2002 election, no leftist party obtained a
seat in the Legislative Assembly. The far-left has been
almost invisible during the last three years. Due to
personal ambitions, party leaders have squandered
opportunities for growth by engaging in divisive battles for
control, allowing other political parties with center-left
characteristics such as the PAC and Patriotic Union to draw
support away from the left,s more traditional base. In
2004, leftist groups began organizing an alliance (the IU),
which currently consists of a coalition of five parties. The
IU is a radical left coalition that opposes CAFTA-DR, fiscal
reform, labor flexibility, and privatization of state-owned
institutions (telecommunications, insurance, social security,
and utilities). There are currently two other principal
leftist parties. Former Legislative Assembly Deputy
(1998-2002) for the leftist Democratic Force Jose Merino
founded Broad Front in 2004. Labor unions,
environmentalists, and feminists constitute this group.
Finally, the Democratic Force, founded in 1992, is still in
existence.


6. Democratic Force and Popular Vanguard (part of the IU)
are registered to participate in the national February 2006
elections. Broad Front is registered to run candidates in
the provincial elections. In a July 1 meeting, political
analyst Juany Guzman told Poloff and Pol Assistant that
Democratic Force is the only leftist party with any chance of
winning a Legislative Assembly seat in the 2006 elections.



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Differing Ideologies May Hinder Political Alliances


--------------------------



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7. During the month of July, four smaller political groups
with little previous electoral appeal added their support to
the GANA coalition. GANA expects to finalize an agreement
with the Broad Front Party (socialist) and hopes to reach
agreement with the National Integration Party (center right).
According to political analyst Carlos Montenegro, GANA,s
success will depend on its ability to reach out to Union for
Change (center-right), National Union (center-right), and the
PAC (center-left). In Montenegro,s view, if these parties
continue working separately then the &tired of politics as
usual8 vote will be too diluted to counter the traditional
PLN and PUSC bases of support. In a July 21 conversation
with Pol Assistant, Legislative Assembly staffer Rosemary
Serrano expressed concern that failure to form alliances
would result in an Assembly as fractured as the current one
or worse.



8. Ideological differences are obstructing GANA,s attempt
to expand the alliance. Union for Change recently stated it
would not join the alliance since GANA opposes CAFTA-DR. PAC
leaders, who share GANA,s opposition to CAFTA-DR, have also
publicly rejected the alliance. GANA representatives
continue to woo National Union leader Echandi, who is more
receptive to forming a coalition, though his stand on
CAFTA-DR is opposite GANA,s.



9. Besides ideological differences among parties, analyst
Carlos Montenegro considers that any potential coalition is
threatened by previous party quarrels and the candidates,
personal ambitions. Several former PAC members, for example,
founded the Patriotic Union. Leaders of each party have been
unable to resolve their differences despite their mutual goal
of defeating Oscar Arias of the PLN, who is the clear
front-runner according to polls. Other leaders of newly
organized parties are so far unwilling to give up their
individual (and unrealistic) presidential aspirations in
order to form a coalition. Corrales (Patriotic Union Party)
and Villalobos (Nationalist Democratic Alliance) are two
prime examples.



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Voters Lose Faith in Traditional Parties, Not In Politics


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10. Cantonal parties have experienced a significant increase
in number with thirteen newly registered parties (fifty
percent increase) since the 2002 election. Cantonal
activists believe that voters prefer to vote for people from
their hometowns who will represent their local interests, as
opposed to backing traditional party leaders, who are
considered overly committed to the party,s larger agenda.
Vladimir Sacasa, president of a recently registered cantonal
political party, commented on June 27 that citizens have lost
faith in traditional parties, but not in the political
process itself. Cantonal parties running candidates in local
elections do not receive any campaign financing from the
state budget (as national parties do); therefore, campaigns
are financed by local fundraisers operated by volunteers.
PLN youth movement president Carmen Conejo told Pol Assistant
on July 20 that cantonal parties are stronger than ever and
will probably continue to increase in number. She explained
that, as a result, the PLN strategy at provincial levels is
to provide training targeted at young adults to encourage
their participation in local governments and to counter
rising voter abstention rates.



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COMMENT


--------------------------




11. An alliance of center and left-leaning parties is trying
to elbow its way through the crowd of political parties, but
so far lacks the kind of leadership needed to make it a
serious political contender. Its various leaders are unable
to overcome personal differences to incorporate the plethora
of small parties and formulate a unified political platform.
It appears the only element in common amongst the divergent
leadership is the goal of defeating PLN presidential
candidate Oscar Arias. However, the thirteen emerging
cantonal (local) parties could present opportunities to
generate actions and alliances between communities and
political parties at the grass-roots level, thereby
stimulating citizens, involvement in national elections.
KAPLAN