Costa Rica election poll shows Chaves gaining ground over ex-president

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Rodrigo Chaves, presidential candidate of the Social Democratic Progress Party (PPSD), speaks to the media during a news conference after he advanced to the second electoral round, in San Jose, Costa Rica, February 7, 2022. REUTERS/Mayela Lopez/File Photo

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SAN JOSE, March 1 (Reuters) - Former Costa Rica finance minister Rodrigo Chaves is emerging as the favorite in April's presidential election runoff, a poll from the University of Costa Rica (UCR) showed on Tuesday, marking a reversal after taking second place in the initial vote.

Chaves, who has carved out an anti-establishment reputation, garnered support from 46.5% of voters surveyed, ahead of former Costa Rican President Jose Maria Figueres, with 35.9%.

Figueres took the lead in the vote's first round in February, but did not secure the necessary 40% of votes to win outright for the 2022-2026 term.

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More than 15% of voters are still undecided, according to the UCR poll, which was based on 1,000 interviews between Feb. 22 and 24 and has a margin of error of three percentage points.

About 3.5 million Costa Ricans are eligible to go to the polls on April 3, although only 60% voted in the first round, the lowest figure in decades.

Both Chaves and Figueres have vowed to tackle corruption, a key concern for Costa Ricans along with high unemployment rates in a country with a reputation for stability in a turbulent region.

Chaves built his campaign around cleaning up political graft, helped by his newly-created Social Democratic Progress Party being untainted by past misconduct.

By contrast, Figueres' scandal-hit National Liberation Party (PLN) has often held power at national and local levels over the past half a century.

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Reporting by Alvaro Murillo Editing by Chris Reese

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