Tag Archives: El Salvador

El Salvador – FMLN Candidate Sánchez Ahead in Run-off

On Sunday, El Salvador held its presidential run-off election. With 99 per cent of electoral precincts counted, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the vice-president of the current incumbent, Maurico Funes, and the candidate of the left-leaning Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN), has 50.11 per cent of the vote, compared to 49.89 per cent for Norman Noel Quijano, of the right-leaning Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA), the party who had been in power for twenty years between 1989 and 2009.

With only 6,634 votes between the two candidates, the result has hung in the balance for over a day. However, on Monday afternoon, the country’s electoral tribunal announced that Sánchez’s lead is now irreversible, although the electoral authorities have yet to declare Sánchez as the winner. Quijano has also claimed victory and asserted that he will not allow “fraud of the Chavista or Maduro style like in Venezuela.”

In fact, Sánchez, a former guerrilla commander during El Salvador’s bitter civil war (1979-1992) who had overseen a cautious campaign, light on ideology, was initially expected to be the clear winner in the run-off, but Quijano successfully capitalized on unrest in Venezuela and Sánchez’s apparent support for Nicolás Maduro. During the tail end of the run-off campaign, Quijano ran daily TV adverts with coverage of the civil unrest in Venezuela, which portrayed Sánchez as a dangerous and subversive communist, and which raised the specter of Chavista-like nationalizations in El Salvador should Sánchez win.

This tactic, together with his hard-line stance on gang crime, enabled Quijano to recruit moderate conservatives who had previously supported Antonio Saca (the third placed candidate from the first round).

Sánchez’s victory, which will give the FMLN their second consecutive term in power, does not come without problems. The closeness of the result suggests that some type of legal challenge is inevitable, further eroding Sánchez’s already weak electoral mandate. This will most likely force Sánchez to compromise his policy position, thereby angering the more ideological wing of the FMLN. Not to mention the fact that he takes over a country with dizzyingly high levels of poverty and inequality, and with one of the highest murder rates in the world.

*UPDATE: A vote count is now under way in El Salvador, given the closeness of the result and apparent irregularities with 14 ballot boxes.

Presidential Election in El Salvador goes to Run-off

Election season in Latin America continues apace.[1] As Costa Rica went to the polls on Sunday, so too did the voters of El Salvador. Just like events in their Central American neighbor, the presidential election in El Salvador on Sunday saw an embattled incumbent party struggle to hold onto office and a close electoral contest, which failed to produce an outright winner. A second round run-off election will be held on March 9th.

With nearly 99.3 per cent of the vote counted, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the vice-president of the current incumbent, Maurico Funes, and the candidate of the left-leaning Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN), has 48.93 per cent of the vote. Norman Noel Quijano, of the right-leaning Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA), the party who had been in power for twenty years between 1989 and 2009, has 38.95 per cent of the vote. Third place went to the former president (2004-2009), Antonio Saca of the Movimiento Unidad, with 11.44 per cent of the ballot. Given that Sánchez just failed to reach the 50 per cent plus one vote threshold, this means both him and Quijano will now face off in a run-off election in March.

With crippling levels of poverty and inequality, and some of the highest homicide rates in the world, corruption, crime and the provision of social services dominated the electoral campaign. Again, as in Costa Rica on Sunday and in Honduras in November, valence issues continue to monopolize elections in Central America.[2]

Sánchez, a former guerrilla commander during El Salvador’s bitter civil war (1979-1992), adopted a cautious rhetoric, largely devoid of ideology, which was centered upon promises to maintain FMLN’s social programs, open the country to FDI, and tackle rampant crime with military resources.  Quijano, the former mayor of San Salvador, adopted a hard-line stance on gang crime, which plagues El Salvador, and was critical of the recent truce signed, under the moderation of the government, between some of the major gangs. However, Quijano’s campaign was damaged by a corruption scandal involving a former ARENA president (1999-2009), Francisco Flores.

What matters now is who can attract the voters of the third-placed conservative candidate, Saca, in the run-off. It is unclear whom Saca’s voters might support, given Saca was expelled from ARENA in 2009. Both sides have already begun to woo him. He has yet to endorse either candidate.


[1] In 2014, presidential elections have been held in Costa Rica and El Salvador, and are due to be held later this year in Brazil, Colombia and Uruguay.

[2] For example, see Holland, Alisha. 2013. “Right on Crime?  Conservative Party Politics and Mano Dura Policies in El Salvador,” Latin American Research Review 48(1): 44-68.