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06SANJOSE319 2006-02-09 23:06:00 UNCLASSIFIED Embassy San Jose
Cable title:  

COSTA RICA CONTINUES TO STUMBLE TOWARD ELECTION

Tags:   PGOV CS 
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					  UNCLAS SAN JOSE 000319 

SIPDIS

DEPT FOR WHA/CEN

E.O. 12958: N/A
TAGS: PGOV CS
SUBJECT: COSTA RICA CONTINUES TO STUMBLE TOWARD ELECTION
RESULTS; ARIAS WIDENS HIS LEAD

REF: A. SAN JOSE 0283


B. SAN JOSE 0304



1. Summary: Oscar Arias appeared to have gotten a boost
during the initial stages of a full manual vote recount from
the February 5 national elections. Going into the manual
count, Arias led chief rival Otton Solis by a slim 3,250
votes, with 89 percent of precincts counted. Results from
the manual count of 712 precincts, which represent the final
11 percent of the national total, show Arias gaining over
10,000 votes. The Supreme Elections Tribunal (TSE) has
stated it will not release full results until after the
manual count is complete, which could come as late as the
statutorily mandated March 17. End summary.



2. News outlets and party contacts reported on February 9
that, based on unofficial results from the partial manual
vote count, presidential candidate Oscar Arias has
significantly widened his lead over his chief rival, Otton
Solis. Of the 712 uncounted precincts from Sunday night,
some 650 had reportedly been counted by Wednesday, with Arias
getting a boost of 10,650 votes from those tables alone.
While electoral officials have been careful to warn against
combining the results of the partial manual count with those
from the partial electronic count, most observers have done
just that, concluding that with all voting stations tallied,
Arias leads by some 14,000 votes.



3. After setting and missing several deadlines for the
announcement of provisional election results, the Supreme
Elections Tribunal (TSE) on Thursday reversed course, stating
that it will not release vote totals until a full manual
recount is complete. Several media outlets have joined the
TSE in deciding not to publish or discuss any further partial

SIPDIS
results. With the manual recount efforts averaging 400
tables per day out of a total 6,163 tables, the TSE will have
a hard time meeting its statutory deadline of March 17 for
final certification of the presidential results.



4. In an effort to keep the populace at least marginally
informed, the TSE is releasing the results of each day's
manual recount on its website, http://www.tse.go.cr. Adding
to voter confusion, the website does not provide daily vote
totals, much less a running tabulation of all polling
stations, but rather lists the vote counts for each station
separately. While this won't stop local media and party
organizations from tabulating the results on their own, most
citizens will be daunted by the endless rows of raw data.



5. As the manual recount continues, the issue of how to
handle nullified votes remains to be decided. Of the 1.45
million votes included in the initial counting, 21,000 were
nullified by the local election boards. Embassy has learned
that party officials from both the National Liberation Party
(PLN) and the Citizens' Action Party (PAC) are meticulously
examining each of these votes to determine whether they were
properly voided. Based on anecdotal reports of contention
among the examiners, it appears that stray pen marks are
poised to become Costa Rica's "hanging chads."



6. No changes were reported in the race for the Legislative
Assembly, though three seats remained in contention, pending
final recount. By law, the TSE has 50 working days to
complete their certification of legislative elections, so it
is highly unlikely that the recount for legislators will
begin until after the presidential certification, with its
deadline of 30 working days, is complete.
LANGDALE