SAN JOSE, Costa Rica (AP) — Costa Rica's governing party candidate Johnny Araya said Wednesday that he is dropping out of a presidential runoff election and will stop campaigning because polls show his rival with an overwhelming lead.
The announcement appeared to guarantee victory for opposition candidate Luis Solis, who has campaigned on promises to battle corruption and to reactivate the economy in this Central American country of 4 million people.
The April 6 election will still be held and Araya will appear on the ballot because Costa Rica's constitution doesn't allow for candidates to drop out. But the 57-year-old will no longer campaign.
Araya made the announcement after a poll published by the University of Costa Rica had Solis leading by 64 percent to 21 percent. The university questioned 1,200 likely voters by telephone from Feb. 3-13. The survey has a margin of error of three percentage points.
Araya said he made the decision because he didn't want to spend any more money on his campaign.
"The runoff election is looking very difficult and filled with obstacles and our time and resources are limited," he said.
Araya's long-governing National Liberation Party has been weighed down by corruption allegations in a country that has long been considered the most stable in Central America.
Araya, who resigned as mayor of the capital of San Jose last year after 22 years in the post, couldn't overcome discontent over high unemployment during President Laura Chinchilla's government.
Few had expected Solis' centrist Citizen Action Party to even make the second round of the presidential election, in a country where politics have been dominated for three decades by only two parties, National Liberation and the Social Christian Unity party.
Solis, a 56-year-old historian and social science professor at Costa Rica University, urged Costa Ricans to come out and vote and not assume he has already won the presidency.
"Without that vote put in the ballots boxes, without that vote counted ... I won't be the president elect," Solis said.
Solis, who canceled a trip to Washington after Araya's announcement, said he will continue to visit all the communities he can but without spending too much money.
"We have the confidence and ability to lead the country in the paths of progress," Solis said.