The most intriguing elections in a generation in Costa Rica have locked the presidential candidate for the country’s most powerful traditional party in a three-way tie with candidates from either side of the political spectrum. As recently as last September, Johnny Araya, the long-serving mayor of San José, looked like sailing to victory on 2 February with more than 50% of the vote, securing in the process a third straight term in power for the Partido Liberación Nacional (PLN). He remains the marginal favourite but since then the momentum has swung firmly behind his opponents - Otto Guevara, who performed creditably in the last elections in 2010 for the right-of-centre Movimiento Libertario (ML) and José María Villalta, whose emergence as a viable contender for the left-wing Frente Amplio (FA) has been the biggest surprise of the campaign, and prompted no shortage of scaremongering.

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