Image via WikipediaThe posters are up, the party flags are waving from the pick up trucks....the local election campaigns are in full swing, ready for polling day on the fifth of December when new leaders will be elected for all the cantons of Costa Rica.
Or old leaders. The current alcalde (mayor) of the capital, San Jose, Johnny Araya, has been in post since 2003 and intends to carry on ....I passed a large building in the Paseo Colon yesterday with his slogans plastered all over its frontage....'San Jose wins with Johnny'.
I might have been more impressed if the pavement in front of the building had been level and had the road alongside not featured something resembling the water jump on a steeplechase course.
The choice in my canton lies between
a) old corruption....long experience in state enterprises...
b) new corruption....ditto plus fingers in the pie of the European Union aid programme..
c) local initiative....education.
So we know c) won't get anywhere.
The system is familiar to one coming from France. The voter has a choice between the various political parties...including a party representing handicapped people....rather than between individual candidates, so you get whoever the party puts up in your area and in ours it seems to be a question of Buggins' turn.
The retiring alcalde has no more sense of administration than fly....
Central government allots funds on an annual basis, but, to avoid misuse, claws back anything not used.
So, with the canton's roads falling to pieces around him, this alcalde has managed to produce no projects to use central government money....which has thus been withdrawn and which will result in a lower allocation for next year...while making the canton liable for huge bills for repairing damage to property caused by the failure to manage the road drainage systems.
I think if I were his party, I'd let the other lot pick up the pieces....but political parties don't think like that.
Since the European Union began to provide funding in Costa Rica, several unwelcome innovations have been made in the interests of boosting government income.
One of which is that fines for traffic offences have gone through the roof and vast amounts of time have been spent on painting kerbs yellow, to allow the traffic police to haul away any vehicle parked alongside.
This has cut down trade at the weekly farmers' market no end....
Our alcalde has gone one better. Noting that only half the town had been daubed yellow, he started marking out parking spaces on what was left, and demanding that drivers pay for a parking ticket to use them, while employing two men to walk round all day with clipboards to note the offenders.
Everyone promptly began to park in the customer parking areas of the supermarkets and agricultural suppliers who have, not surprisingly, now closed their gates to all but genuine customers.
The result is that you now go shopping accompanied by a driver who drives round the town while you shop and picks you up at an arranged rendez-vous......another brilliant method of increasing carbon emissions.
Or you ride in to town on your horse and tie it up behind the municipal market.
Historically, the canton always votes overwhelmingly for the party the current alcalde adorns.....as the owner of my favourite caff says
'Put up a pig in the right colours and it'll get elected...come to think of it...it did.'
But it may just be that the parking wheeze will be enough to let the other main party in.
'La Nacion', one of the main national newspapers, reckons that of the one thousand and four candidates for local office on the fifth, one hundred and fifty six have blots on their copybook which might deter less rhino-hided people from coming forward.
In most cases this involves not making social security payments of behalf of their workers, but others are more inventive.
Their activities range from misuse of public funds, misleading statements of eligibility to stand for office, improper use of public office and in one case a term of imprisonment for passing dud cheques.
None of these activities bar anyone from standing for office, unless a court has made a specific order to that effect, so the rhino-hided carry on regardless.
If I were eligible to vote I'd have been tempted by the slogan of one of the candidates in the recent presidential elections, whose appeal to the voters was the following...
'El menos mal'...the least bad!
So that's what I'll be hoping for on the fifth....but I wont be surprised if it's a pig in coloured clothing either...