This past week, the political endorsements for the only two remaining presidential candidates have been coming fast and furious.
The National Republican Alliance (ARENA) has succeeded in consolidating support for its ticket from El Salvador’s right-wing political parties. The top leaders of the National Conciliation Party (PCN) had already pledged their support to ARENA’s Rodrigo Avila, and as expected the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) endorsed ARENA as well. The FMLN’s Funes received the official nod from the center-left Party of Democratic Change (CD).
The FMLN and ARENA are also receiving endorsement from former political parties.
This week Funes accepted the endorsement from the Social Democratic Party (PSD), a former party that had split off the FMLN, now turned movement. The secretary general of the leftist Revolutionary Democratic Front (FDR), which must dissolve because it failed to win enough votes in the January elections, has surprisingly endorsed ARENA’s vice-presidential candidate Arturo Zablah. The same is true of the former leaders of the dissolved National Action Party (PAN), composed mostly of ex-members of military patrols. They promised 60,000 votes to ARENA.
Dissension among the ranks
Officials from each party have defied the endorsements made by their party’s leadership to make their own endorsements.
For example, two PDC mayors had already announced their endorsement of Funes before the party announced its endorsement of Avila. More interesting still, there is apparently a faction within the PDC calling themselves Christian Democrats for Change. They have taken out a radio ad featuring a sound bite from Jose Napoleon Duarte –one of the party’s historical icons– which calls the ARENA the party of violence. It should be noted that, Rodolfo Parker, secretary general of the PDC accuses the FMLN of being behind the ad.
There is also a divergence between leadership and the representatives of the FDR. Even though the party’s secretary has endorsed ARENA’s vice-presidential candidate Zablah, three of the party’s leaders and 90% of its base support Funes.
The PCN, also experiencing some dissension, has threatened to sanction members who publicly endorse Funes.
Some officials who’ve been unable to decide between candidates have declared that they will leave their voters free to decide.
And what about those voters?
Along with their pledge of support, party leaders pledge to give the candidates the votes that their party received in the elections on January 18. The vote totals for each party are shown below.
Party: # of Votes (% of Votes)
ARENA: 854,166 (38.56%)
FMLN: 943,936 (42.60%)
PCN: 194,751 (08.79%)
PDC: 153,654 (06.94%)
CD: 46,971 (02.12%)
FDR: 22,111 (01.00%)
In his article titled “Nada nuevo (Nothing new)” political analyst Joaquin Samayoa asserts that, as reflected by the fissures within the party hierarchies, the bases will split too. It is likely that the majority of the PCN base will vote for ARENA. However, some angry supporters of Chevez -the PCN’s former presidential candidate who was pushed out by party leadership- may stay away from the polls. The PDC base will also probably mostly vote for Avila, but a significant minority is expected to vote for Funes. Samayoa points out that many CD supporters came to the party because they were unsatisfied with ARENA, but rejected the FMLN’s ideology. He cautions that with the CD’s endorsement of Funes, these members may leave the CD for good.
Samayos goes on to say “The discussion about offering support from the institution to one of the contending parties or to leave their militants free is idle talk. The Constitution is what grants us voters freedom, not the leaders of a party…The vote is free and secret. That is how we understand it, and that is how we, as citizens, will exercise it.”