The latest country to join a long list of states with women leaders is Costa Rica: in the presidential election conducted yesterday, the winner by a comfortable margin is Laura Chinchilla Miranda, the first woman to become head of state in this Central American republic.
Chinchillaâ€™s victory also vividly demonstrates democracy in action in a country thatâ€™s in a part of the world where such freedom of expression has a pretty poor track record over the years â€“ with Costa Rica being a notable exception.
I lived in Costa Rica during most of the 80s, and so itâ€™s a place that still has close interest for me (family and friends there, too). What I found especially interesting about this presidential election is the role of social networks like Twitter and Facebook and how people used them during the election period including voting day yesterday.
According to a concise report in La NaciÃ³n, Costa Ricaâ€™s most influential newspaper, such social networks played a big role in how people shared comment and opinion. Hereâ€™s my loose translation from La NaciÃ³nâ€™s Spanish-language report, â€œRedes sociales tambiÃ©n vivieron esta elecciÃ³nâ€:
Minute by minute, many people followed everything connected with the elections held yesterday via Twitter and Facebook.
For most of the day, "votocr" (the hashtag used on Twitter to address this issue) was the most-used word on Twitter in the Spanish language. [What Iâ€™d describe as a â€˜trending topic.â€™]
Costa Ricans used Twitter mainly to discuss the news, but also to report on the atmosphere at polling stations. Some posted photographs.
While there were no definitive numbers at press time, at certain times of the day nearly 1,000 messages were posted on Twitter every hour with information on the elections in Costa Rica.
[â€¦] La NaciÃ³nâ€™s Facebook profile recorded about 250 comments at press time. The presidential candidates (in particular, Laura Chinchilla, Otton Solis and Otto Guevara) also generated participation within their own profiles through various news and comments made during the day.
Not only individuals used Twitter but also institutions such as the Tribunal Supremo de Elecciones, Costa Ricaâ€™s electoral authority, which tweeted updates of voting count estimates after the polls closed.
A good example of a country where freedom of expression is the norm and people can make use of whatever communication channels they want to and are able to access. According to Internet World Stats, Costa Rica has the highest internet penetration in Central America at over one-third of the population.
Pura vida, Costa Rica!