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Friday October 4, 2013 MYT 9:35:02 AM
Friday October 4, 2013 MYT 9:36:08 AM
SAN JOSE (Reuters) - The leading opposition candidate in Costa Rica's presidential race unexpectedly dropped out on Thursday, bolstering the chance that the ruling National Liberation Party (PLN) will hold onto power.
Rodolfo Hernandez, candidate for the centre-right Social Christian Unity Party (PUSC), said he was stepping down in a letter released on Thursday afternoon. Elections are scheduled for February 2, 2014.
Hernandez blamed "backstabbing" by his own party and alleged that some dissatisfied PUSC members passed information to the centrist PLN's candidate, Johnny Araya. The PLN has held power since 2006.
Hernandez, a medical doctor, came in second in a recent national poll by the newspaper La Nacion and was seen as a strong contender to force a runoff election.
He said he plans to return to the National Children's Hospital, where he served as director. The PUSC has until October 18 to formally name its presidential candidate.
(Reporting by Zach Dyer; Editing by Jim Loney)
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