Costa Ricans just elected a surprising new president: a former fiction novelist and minister who promised to legalize gay marriage.
The victor, Carlos Alvarado Quesada, unexpectedly won the country’s presidential runoff on Sunday against Fabricio Alvarado Munoz, an evangelical pastor, singer, and former journalist who campaigned against the legalization of gay marriage. The divisive election pitted much of the country’s liberal coastline against the more socially conservative rural areas.
Munoz had promised to restrict abortion rights and defend traditional interpretations of marriage, a message that propelled him to an unexpected first- round victory in February.
Despite deep-seated opposition to gay marriage in the religious Latin-American state, a high turnout of voters on Sunday handed victory to the center-left ruling party through Quesada. A message of social tolerance and a promise to allow same-sex marriage underpinned his campaign.
Quesada, 38, will now become the youngest president in the country’s history after winning more than 60 percent of the vote — a larger margin than expected in opinion polls before the weekend, which placed the candidates either neck-and-neck or gave Munoz the edge.
“My duty will be to unite this government,” Quesada said during his victory speech. "Go to sleep reassured because there is a result, a decision and now we'll unite to take this country forward," he added.
Munoz’s concession was even more dramatic. The 43-year-old sunk to his knees in front of his supporters and threw his arms to heaven.
“We’re not sad, because we made history, because our message touched the deepest fibers of society of this country,” he said. But Munoz promised to continue fighting to help ease the country’s problems, which include a rising murder rate, a growing national debt, and a hike in unemployment.
Quesada, who served as minister for labor and social security before his election, will take office in May.
Cover image: Carlos Alvarado Quesada, presidential candidate of the ruling Citizens' Action Party (PAC), holds up his ballot during the presidential election, at a polling station in San Jose, Costa Rica, April 1, 2018. (REUTERS/Jose Cabezas)
This article originally appeared on VICE News US.