Former president and Nobel laureate Oscar Arias won Costa Rica's Feb. 5 presidential election, a press group said Wednesday, citing figures from a manual recount of the ballots
APEX said that, based on its tabulation of the figures published by the TSE, Arias won by 18,165 votes over economist Otton Solis.
TSE chief Luis Antonio Sobrado told reporters that a winner would not be declared until the hundreds of complaints of irregularities had been addressed.
Both Arias, of the National Liberation Party (PLN), and Solis, the candidate of the Citizens' Action Party (PAC), had said they would await the final official results before commenting.
Yet when informed by reporters of APEX's estimate, Arias thanked Costa Ricans for the confidence they showed by re-electing him "20 years after" they first gave him the nod in 1986. And PLN recount monitors outside the TSE offices were smiling and applauding Wednesday evening, while their PAC counterparts were silent.
One of the most divisive issues in this year's election was trade policy, with Arias, a Social Democrat who governed from 1986 to 1990, expressing vocal support for the Central American Free Trade Agreement with the United States - a treaty not yet formally ratified by the Costa Rican legislature - while Solis criticized the pact.
Arias was awarded the 1987 Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts aimed at ending civil wars in Central America.
The return of the 65-year-old Arias to public life was credited with reviving the fortunes of the PLN, after the party - founded in 1953 by a former junta leader and president, Jose Figueres Ferrer, - had lost the previous two presidential elections to its traditional rival, the center-right Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC).
Arias was able to run due to a controversial April 2003 Constitutional Court ruling that voided a 1969 amendment prohibiting presidential re-election.
Solis, an economist who founded the PAC in 2000, said he was satisfied with the performance in the election of his party, which is now one of the most important in the country, along with the PLN.
The support won by the PAC in the elections changed the political landscape in Costa Rica and ended the traditional two-party system dominated by the PLN and the PUSC, which was the big loser.
The collapse of the PUSC was blamed on the corruption scandals surrounding two of the party's former presidents, Rafael Angel Calderon and Miguel Angel Rodriguez, who are awaiting trial.