Ex-Pastor Tied in Presidential Race With Christian Music Artist

Carlos Alvarado, presidential candidate of the ruling Citizens' Action Party (PAC), smiles as he addresses the media in San Jose, Costa Rica.
Carlos Alvarado, presidential candidate of the ruling Citizens' Action Party (PAC), smiles as he addresses the media in San Jose, Costa Rica. (REUTERS/Juan Carlos Ulate)
Former Costa Rica minister Carlos Alvarado Quesada and evangelical Christian Fabricio Alvarado Munoz are tied in the race to be the Central American country's next president, a poll released on Tuesday showed, with four weeks until the runoff vote.

Forty-one percent of respondents plan to pick the center-left Alvarado Quesada in the second-round election, while 39 percent said they would select Alvarado Munoz, a conservative religious singer and former journalist, according to a University of Costa Rica poll.

The margin of error was 3.1 percentage points.

Alvarado Munoz's lead has appeared to shrink in recent weeks, according to other polls.

The 43-year-old Alvarado Munoz, the lone elected lawmaker for the evangelical National Restoration Party, shot to prominence as a candidate after denouncing a court ruling calling on Costa Rica to give civil marriage rights to same-sex couples.

With rival Alvarado Quesada, the ruling-party contender, supporting gay marriage, the April 1 runoff looks set to effectively be a referendum on an issue that has polarized a country known for its laid-back culture and pristine nature.

Alvarado Munoz's rise on a ticket fiercely opposing gay marriage was helped by the decline of a centrist two-party system that stretched back decades in a country long considered one of Latin America's most stable.

Munoz was elected to the national assembly in 2014 as the only federal deputy representing the Christian-backed National Restoration Party (PRN).

One thousand people were interviewed by phone on Feb. 27-28 in the poll, which showed that about 20 percent of Costa Rican voters were still undecided.

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