Costa Rica - Political and electoral system

Political and administrative structure

A unitary state. Politically and administratively, the country is divided into seven provinces; these are divided into 81 cantons, which are in turn divided into 470 districts.

National parliament

La Asamblea Legislativa de la República de Costa Rica es un órgano unicameral compuesto de cincuenta y siete (57) legisladoras y legisladores elegidos por sufragio universal.

Municipal government

Each canton is administered by a municipal government. The municipality or local government of each canton is headed by a mayor, which, according to Article 169 of the Constitution, serves as its chief executive officer. The mayorship has been an elective position since 2002. (See Art 14., which amends articles 14, 17 and 20 of the Municipal Code - Law Nº 77794, dated 30 April 1998, and subsequent amendments). The law also provides for two vice-mayors, which replace the municipal mayor during temporary and permanent absences, among other functions, in the order of their election. The municipal council is the legislative branch of local government. The council is comprised of voting councilpersons.

Duration of terms

Officials are elected to four-year terms.

Representation system

Mayors and district representatives are elected by relative majority in each canton and district, respectively. District council members are elected by proportional majority, by quotient and sub-quotient.

Type of list

The law does not specify a procedure for the submission of mayoral candidacies. A closed-list system is employed for councilpersons.

Electoral constituency

Uninominal for mayors, plurinominal for councilpersons.

Legal instruments applicable to municipalities

1949 Constitution, 1998 Municipal Code.

Electoral Justice

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal is the country's highest electoral authority, according to the constitution. It is therefore responsible for organizing, directing and overseeing electoral affairs. The Tribunal operates as an independent body in this regard. The country's other electoral agencies, such as the Civil Registry and election boards, are adscribed to the Tribunal. Election boards are temporary in nature, and consist of cantonal boards and polling stations. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal is the court of final instance for appeals or requests for clarification arising from Civil Registry resolutions.