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Voter abstention main challenge for Costa Rica's only candidate in presidential election

  • Costa Rica Election-1.jpg

    Luis Guillermo Solis, presidential candidate for the Citizen's Action Party stands up during a press conference in San Jose, Costa Rica, Saturday, April 5, 2014. Solis, a 56-year-old historian and social science professor at the University of Costa Rica, will face the ruling party candidate Johnny Araya who abandoned campaigning because polls showed his rival had an overwhelming lead before Sunday’s runoff presidential election. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)The Associated Press

  • Costa Rica Election-2.jpg

    Luis Guillermo Solis, presidential candidate for the Citizen's Action Party, right, accompanied by his vice-president candidate Helio Fallas, gives a press conference in San Jose, Costa Rica, Saturday, April 5, 2014. Solis, a 56-year-old historian and social science professor at the University of Costa Rica, will face the ruling party candidate Johnny Araya who abandoned campaigning because polls showed his rival had an overwhelming lead before Sunday’s runoff presidential election. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)The Associated Press

  • Costa Rica Election-3.jpg

    Men walk next to Costa Rican flags and political party flags, in San Jose, Costa Rica, Saturday, April 5, 2014. Costa Rica will vote on the Sunday’s runoff presidential election between Juan Guillermo Solis, presidential candidate of Citizen's Action Party and ruling party candidate Johnny Araya. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)The Associated Press

  • Costa Rica Election-4.jpg

    A woman crosses the street close to a set of flags of the ruling National Liberation Party, in San Jose, Costa Rica, Saturday, April 5, 2014. Costa Rica will vote on the Sunday’s runoff presidential election between Juan Guillermo Solis, presidential candidate of Citizen Action Party and ruling party candidate Johnny Araya . (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)The Associated Press

Nobody stands between Luis Solis and the presidency of Costa Rica.

The center-leftist's only rival in Sunday's runoff dropped out of the race last month, leaving Solis one chief remaining challenge: getting enough Costa Ricans to the polls to give him a respectable vote total.

Solis topped the first round of the presidential vote in February with only about 30 percent of the vote and a margin of less than 1 percentage point over Johnny Araya of the governing National Liberation Party. But just over a month later, polls showed Solis had built a lead of two or three to one, and Araya stopped campaigning, saying it would be a waste of money.

Solis, who turns 56 later this month, has vowed a more activist government that focuses on building up small and medium-sized local businesses while strengthening social and environmental programs in a country long considered the most stable in Central America.

While his Citizen Action Party opposed the Central American Free Trade Agreement, Solis said he won't try to pull out of the deal, but will manage it better.

Solis will have to negotiate to get his policies through Congress. His party holds just 13 of the 57 seats in the National Assembly. And analysts say Sunday's vote total could affect his influence as well.

"If he gets less votes that what he got in the first round, he won't have political legitimacy even if legally he is president," said Francisco Barahona, a political science professor at the University of Costa Rica

The son of a shoemaker turned small businessman, Solis studied history at the University of Costa Rica and obtained a master's degree in Latin American studies at Tulane University in the United States. He also has taught at Florida International University and at the University of Michigan.

Back home, he taught at local universities and worked in the country's Foreign Ministry at the time when President Oscar Arias was helping mediate an end to Central America's civil wars. He later served as an ambassador and as secretary general of the National Liberation Party.

Solis quit the party in 2005, complaining of corruption, and went back into teaching. He joined Citizen Action only in 2009.

Araya, 57, will still appear on the ballot because Costa Rica's constitution doesn't allow for candidates to drop out but the former San Jose mayor said he will stay home Sunday and won't attend a gathering at his party's headquarters.

Even so, National Liberation Party chief Bernal Jimenez is urging party supporters to vote. National Liberation retains the largest voting bloc in congress, but its popularity has been eroded by corruption allegations and discontent over high unemployment under the administration of outgoing President Laura Chinchilla.

Few had expected Solis to even make the second round of the presidential election, in a country where politics have been dominated for three decades by only two parties, National Liberation and the Social Christian Unity party.