|Costa Rica Government|
The President of the Republic, Laura Chinchilla
Costa Rica is one of the oldest democracies in the Americas; its first election was held in 1889. Actually we’re governed according to the Constitution of November 7, 1949. An improvement of previous constitutions, this version made one change that has had specially far reaching effects: it eliminated the country’s armed forces.
The Constitution gives the president executive power. The President of the Republic is elected by free elections for a four year term. Two vice-presidents are elected through this same process. The president has the authority to choose a cabinet of ministers.
Congress, the legislative branch, is an unicameral parliament. Fifty-seven congressmen are elected to four-year terms, chosen from political party candidates.
The General Court is the highest judicial body. It is composed of twenty-two magistrates, elected by Congress to a minimum of eight years. The General Court manages judicial power and is responsible for naming judges and tribunals.
The different chambers of the Supreme Court are formed by members of the General Court. Of the chambers, the Constitutional Chamber is the most powerful. It rules on any matters related to the constitutionality of laws and, in general, is charged with the protection of citizens from any possible improprieties or waste on the part of the government. Better known as "La Sala IV", this chamber was created within the Supreme Court a few years ago, and has been generally well received by citizens. On several occasions, "La Sala IV" has overturned major, long standing laws, challenged by ordinary citizens on constitutional grounds.
Another important tribunal is the Supreme Tribunal of Elections, which is in charge of guaranteeing fair elections, in accordance with electoral law.