Governing Costa Rica is hard. With only one four year term, presidents have little time to advance their agendas. The unicameral legislature, meanwhile, is fractured and sluggish. Representatives are also limited to a single four-year term, and minority parties can (and do) gum up legislation they don’t like with endless procedural motions.
Governing Costa Rica is also tricky. Pretty much everyone who’s anyone makes their money off the government, directly or indirectly. Try to reform anything – anything – and you’re bound to step on some powerful, well-entrenched toes. A White Knight approach to governance in Costa Rica will get you politically assassinated.
So maybe, just maybe, a woman’s touch is needed.
In the last few days, President-elect Laura Chinchilla (PLN) has paraded across the cover of La Nación in the company of some odd folks. First she appeared with Libertarian ex-candidate Ótto Guevara, promising to back the Libertarians’ security initiatives. Then she met with Citizen Action’s Ottón Solís, who later promised to back the PLN’s social initiatives. Now this morning, she’s appearing with extreme-left-wing Frente Amplio, promising to support that party’s environmental initiatives.
One could make an argument that Chinchilla is only doing all this glad-handing because her party lacks a majority in the 57-seat National Legislature, so she needs a coalition to govern. But that wouldn’t explain why she’s making nice with Frente Amplio, a party with only one seat, and a party that PLN allies viciously smeared during the 2007 CAFTA referendum.
An optimist might get the impression that Chinchilla actually intends to lead the country somewhere – gently, all-inclusively, forward. Stroking egos and compromising would be more or less the only way to do so in Costa Rica. It will, of course, remain to be seen if she intends to follow through on this early alliance-building, and (more importantly) if her fellow liberacionistas can manage to be as gracious.
For the moment, however, the lack of machismo is refreshing.