Asamblea Legislativa de la República de Costa Rica
Gloria Navas Montero, PNR
since 1 May 2022
Melina Ajoy Palma, PUSC
since 1 May 2022
6 ordinary standing
14 special standing
|Party-list proportional representation|
Modified Hare quota
|6 February 2022|
|Session room of the Asamblea Legislativa building.|
|Costa Rica portal|
The Legislative Assembly (Spanish: Asamblea Legislativa) forms the unicameral legislative branch of the Costa Rican government. The national congress building is located in the capital city, San José, specifically in Carmen district of the San José canton.
The Legislative Assembly is composed of 57 deputies, (Spanish: diputados), who are elected by direct, universal, popular vote on a closed party list proportional representation basis, by province, for four-year terms. A 1949 constitutional amendment prevents deputies from serving for two successive terms, though a deputy may run for an Assembly seat again after sitting out a term. Currently a proposal to switch to a Mixed-member proportional representation based on the German system is under discussion.
The parliamentary fractions in Costa Rica correspond to the representation of the political parties according to the electoral results obtained for each period:
In the Legislative Assembly there will be as many fractions as political parties are represented in it. The deputies will be considered integrated to the Fraction of the party for which they were elected and none may belong to more than one fraction.— Regulations of the Legislative Assembly, Chapter II, Disciplinary Regime, Article 7bis, Parliamentary Fractions.
Accordingly, the Electoral Code assigns to the political parties the exclusive legitimacy to nominate candidates for deputies, as stipulated in article 74.
The deputies are elected by provinces. The Parliament is made up of fifty-seven deputies, all proprietors. Each time a general population census is carried out, the Supreme Electoral Court of Costa Rica reassigns the number of deputies allocated to each province, in proportion to the population of each one of them.
Deputies are elected for four years in office and cannot be successively reelected. There are only three requirements to qualify for the position:
Cannot be elected deputies, nor registered as candidates for that function:
These incompatibilities affect those who hold the indicated positions within the six months prior to the date of the election. For that reason, when an administration is about to end, it is usual that there are several resignations of the people who occupy these positions and try to aspire to a deputy seat.
Deputies cannot accept, after being sworn in, under penalty of losing their credentials, any position or employment in the other Powers of the State or autonomous institutions, except in the case of a Ministry of Government. In this case, they will rejoin the National Assembly when they cease to function. The legislative function is also incompatible with the exercise of any other public office of popular election. The deputies may not enter into, directly or indirectly, or by representation, any contract with the State, nor obtain a concession of public goods that implies privilege, nor intervene as directors, administrators or managers in companies that contract with the State, works, supplies or exploitation of public services.
See also: Parliamentary immunity
The deputies are not responsible for the opinions that they issue in the Legislative Plenary. During the sessions, they cannot be arrested for civil reasons, unless authorized by the Legislative Assembly itself or if the deputy consents to it. From the time they are declared proprietor or alternate deputies, until they end their legal term, they may not be deprived of their liberty for criminal reasons, except when they have previously been suspended by the Legislative Assembly. This parliamentary immunity does not take effect in the case of flagrant crime, or when the deputy renounces it. However, the deputies who have been arrested in flagrante delicto, will be released if the Legislative Assembly orders it. It is similar to the so-called parliamentary privilege of the Westminster system of the Parliament of the United Kingdom.
It is possible for a deputy elected by a political party, to separate from the parliamentary fraction of that party and act as an independent deputy, however the deputies who avail themselves to this allowance cannot join another legislative fraction, only the one for which they were elected, as contemplated in the Regulations of the Legislative Assembly. It is not possible, according to current legislation, for a citizen to directly run for the position of an independent deputy without the representation of a political party.
Becoming an independent deputy is protected by virtue of Article 25 of the Political Constitution of Costa Rica, in which deputies, like any citizen, have freedom of association and cannot be forced to remain in a specific political party and can join any other political group.
The inhabitants of the Republic have the right to associate for lawful purposes. No one may be forced to be part of any association.— Article 25 of the Political Constitution of Costa Rica
However, as the Supreme Electoral Court of Costa Rica has repeatedly observed, since deputies are popularly elected, their nomination must be made through a political party, due to the framework of the current legal system, in which the political parties have a monopoly on the nomination of candidates for deputies according to the Electoral Code.
Therefore, independent deputies cannot act on behalf of another party for which they were not elected within the legislative board, only independently, nor are they considered a fraction, or a "bloc", a figure that does not exist within of the Regulations of the Legislative Assembly. Other activities that belong to the legislative fractions or fraction leaders are not allowed either, such as including bills on the deliberations.
Several independent deputies through history have asked the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica, to be recognized as the head of a parliamentary fraction or to have the financial resources of a parliamentary fraction, in contradiction with the regulations, this court has stated:
Indeed, it is not possible under any circumstances, to claim that any deputy who separates from the Fraction to which he belongs, is declared as a new Political Fraction, with all the attributions and duties inherent to this condition, both due to the existence of a regulatory provision that defines and restricts the concept of "Parliamentary Fraction", as well as a basic aspect of common sense, which seeks to establish the necessary limits to achieve the ideal organizational mechanisms that allow, in turn, an effective and efficient development of the legislative tasks.— Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica, Resolution 2009000849, Results #2, Page 1.
The eventual subsequent separation of a deputy from the political party for which he was elected does not mean that the deputy loses his status as such, being that at all times he maintains the powers, rights and duties inherent to his position; But the foregoing does not imply that his separation empowers him to acquire, ex officio and full right, the competences that are typical of a figure expressly provided in the Regulations, with particular duties and rights and intended to be the representative of a group of deputies elected under the same political flag.— Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice of Costa Rica, Resolution 2009000849, Results #2, Page 2.
Thus, there is no regulatory possibility of forming a fraction not linked to the representation of a political party that has elected at least one representative by means of suffrage, understood in accordance with article 93 of the Political Constitution of Costa Rica.
In the 2018-2022 legislative period several deputies elected through the National Restoration Party and the National Integration Party declared themselves independent and then gave their personal adhesion as a "bloc" or individually to parties that were not elected, this, in accordance with the regulations, constitutes a personal affiliation, and it does not imply in any way that the parties they later affiliated to have legal representation as a parliamentary fraction, so they are recognized as independent within the directory of deputies of the Legislative Assembly.
The Legislative Assembly is a unicameral body of 57 deputies whose number is constitutionally fixed and whose deputies are elected on closed lists nominated by the political parties according to a proportional system. Different experts have recommended the increase in the number of deputies as an urgent need to improve representativeness, but this proposal is highly unpopular among the population and generates rejection reactions.
A report by the United Nations Development Programme and the Center for Research and Political Studies of the University of Costa Rica recommended increasing the number of legislators to 82.
The Northwestern University, which made recommendations for more than 100 countries, recommended that the Costa Rican parliament have 115 deputies according to their population (in 1999),
The Board of Notables for State Reform (Spanish: Junta de Notables para la Reforma del Estado) called by President Laura Chinchilla during her administration recommended increasing the number of deputies to between 75 and 85. The Poder Ciudadano Ya movement on the other hand proposed to increase it to 84 and drastically reduce the number of legislative advisers (currently 12) to avoid a very large increase in salaries.
A proposal to use the German model for the election of deputies by lawyer Diego González suggests increasing the number to 143 making use of an electoral system, in which the country would be divided into 72 electoral circuits for 59,700 inhabitants and deputies would be elected on two lists, 72 elected by a single-member constituency where a deputy is directly elected for each district, and 71 elected by a proportional constituency where they would be distributed proportionally according to the votes received per party.
Most of these proposals also include the change to the direct election of deputies and not by closed lists as it is currently.
This table shows the awarded seats by province for the 2018-2022 period.
|Province||Number of seats||Population|
(as of 2023 census)
Following the 2022 legislative election, the President of the Legislative Assembly was elected in the person of former presidency minister Rodrigo Arias Sánchez of National Liberation Party with the support of all benches except Broad Front.
|Parliamentary fractions 2018-2022|
|Fraction Name (English)||Fraction Name (Spanish)||Abbrev.||Seats||Percentage of Assembly||Party Flag|
|National Liberation Party||Partido Liberación Nacional||PLN||19||33.93%|
|Social Democratic Progress Party||Partido Progreso Social Democrático||PPSD||10||17.86%|
|Social Christian Unity Party||Partido Unidad Social Cristiana||PUSC||9||16.07%|
|New Republic Party||Partido Nueva República||PNR||7||12.28%|
|Liberal Progressive Party||Partido Liberal Progresista||PLP||6||10.71%|
|Broad Front||Frente Amplio||FA||6||10.71%|
In October 2020 the new Asamblea Legislativa building was inaugurated for sessions of the legislative body. Its construction started on 7 March 2018, and has eighteen floors. It is located in Carmen district of San José canton.
The Assembly used to meet in the Edificio Central (Central Building), located immediately east of the current building. Work began on that previous building in 1937, with the plan of having it serve as the new presidential palace. However, since much of the building materials were imported from Germany and Czechoslovakia, the onset of the Second World War put a halt to the project. Work did not restarted until 1957, but by 1958 the legislature was installed and operating in its new premises.
Main article: History of the Costa Rican legislature
The foundations of the Legislative Assembly date back to the establishment of various courts and congresses in New Spain. The modern assembly was created in the aftermath of the Costa Rican Civil War that deposed Teodoro Picado Michalski in 1948. José Figueres Ferrer headed a ruling junta that oversaw the election of a Constituent Assembly. Between 1948 and 1949, this Constituent Assembly created the Constitution of Costa Rica which lays forth the rules governing the assembly today.
During each four-year legislative session, various political parties have occupied majority, minority, and coalition caucuses in the assembly.
Costa Rica is the only Spanish-speaking Central American country not to return deputies to the supranational Central American Parliament.