The Republic of Costa Rica is a democracy
with strong presidential power. The 1949 Constitution
states that the country should have no army. The Costa
Ricans have since lived in peace and relative
prosperity, despite violent upheavals in neighboring
The president, who is both head of state and
government, is elected together with two vice presidents
in general elections every four years. For victory in
the first round, at least 40 percent of the votes are
required, otherwise there will be a second round between
the two candidates who received the most votes. A
president may not run for re-election directly, but may
return after a two-term term of office.
Total population and chart of Costa Rica for years of 2020, 2021, 2022, 2023 and 2024. Also covers population density, birth rate, death rate and population growth rates.
The Legislative Assembly (asamblea
legislative) consists of a chamber of 57
members. These are elected in proportionate elections
held at the same time as the presidential election. The
president can veto bills, but the parliament can veto a
two-thirds majority of the president. A member cannot be
re-elected directly. At least 40 percent of the
candidates on the party lists must be women. Formally,
citizens are required to vote from the age of 18, but
that means nothing in practice.
Costa Rica is divided into seven provinces led by
governors appointed by the president. There are 81
municipalities, or cantons, with directly elected
mayors. The public administration includes a number of
state but autonomous companies such as the telephone and
electricity company ICE and the insurance company INS.
Their former monopoly position ceased after Costa Rica's
accession to the DR-Cafta free trade agreement (see
Economic overview), but they still have a dominant
position in their fields.
Costa Rica has for a long time had a two-party
system, but in recent years the picture has become much
The largest and long-dominant party is basically the
Social Democratic National Liberation Party
(Partido liberación nacional, PLN).
Many Costa Ricans associate PLN with the Costa Rican
welfare state but the party has moved towards the
center. Internal contradictions between traditionalists
and proponents of market economy renewal contributed to
the party losing for the first time two consecutive
elections around the turn of the millennium. In the 2006
election, however, former President and Peace Prize
laureate Óscar Arias returned from the PLN and the party
retained power until 2014.
In the 2014 election, however, Luis Guillermo Solís,
who previously belonged to the PLN but switched to the
Citizens ' Action (Partido acción
ciudadana, PAC), won. The PAC appeared
on the political arena ahead of the 2002 election and
quickly received great support. PAC was formed by
defectors from PLN who wanted to hold on to the social
democratic tradition. The party opposes neoliberalism
and profiled at the outset of opposition to the DR-Cafta
free trade agreement. The PAC retained the presidential
power in the 2018 election but backed down somewhat in
Parliament (see further Current Policy).
One party that came as a rocket in the 2018 election
is the National Restoration Party
(Parido de restauración nacional, PRN).
The party candidate unexpectedly won the first round but
lost in the second. The PRN was formed in 2005 and has
strong support among the country's Protestant minority.
The PLN's main opponent was formerly the Christian
Democratic Christian Social Unity Party
(Partido unidad social cristiana, Pusc).
Pusc is more market liberal than PLN but still acted
slowly in terms of economic liberalization during its
reign. The party was in power in 1998–2006, but a
corruption scandal during the last term of office
contributed to the party being subsequently marginalized
(see Modern history).
The Broad Front (Frente amplio,
FA) is a left-wing party that became
the third largest party in 2014 but almost fell out of
Parliament in the next elections.
The Libertarian Movement (Partido
movimiento libertario, ML) is a
right-wing party that advocates tax cuts, individual
freedom and the privatization of state monopolies. It
was founded in the 1990s by Otto Guevara who has been
the party's presidential candidate in all elections
since 2002. However, ML dropped out of parliament in