With a looming public debt crisis, widening inequality and a new record in homicides, Costa Ricans went to the voting booths on 4 February with one thought on their mind: same-sex marriage. Just one month before polling stations opened across the country, Fabricio Alvarado – a Christian singer and candidate of the evangelical Restoration Party (PRN) – held just three per cent support in opinion polls. Today he is the winner of the first round of presidential elections.

He has promised to stop same-sex marriage, to quit the Inter-American Court of Human Rights (IACHR) and the Organization of American States, ‘if necessary’ to do so. He plans to integrate evangelical pastors into his government and to raise the punishment for abortion.

Fabricio Alvarado will now have to face Carlos Alvarado, former labor minister of the governing center-leaning Citizens Action party (PAC). The latter also registered an unpredictable growth the week before the election, growing from five per cent support in opinion polls a month ago to 21 per cent in the final ballot.

The unexpected result can only be understood within the context in which these atypical elections took place. On 9 January, the IACHR issued its opinion on same-sex marriage and gender identity. The court called upon Costa Rica to modify its laws to extend marriage and the right to determine one’s gender to LGBT people. The opinion, which article seven of Costa Rica’s constitution makes legally binding, caused an uproar amongst religious Costa Ricans opposed to same-sex marriage.

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