Elections 2009

Negotiating Political Power Post-Elections

Some ARENA campaign advertisements portray Mauricio Funes (FMLN) as an extremist, FMLN hardliner or as a puppet of a radical FMLN leadership. In response, the Funes campaign has emphasized his moderate political platform, which some FMLN supporters view as too moderate.

Now, some critics of Funes raise questions regarding his ability to maintain support from the FMLN faction in the Legislative Assembly if he were to win the presidency. They argue that if Funes really does act independently from the FMLN, he could lose their support and with it the ability to govern effectively.

In an interview with Voices, a political analyst at the Central-American University, Álvaro Artiga, acknowledges that this type of scenario is indeed possible, however unlikely.

Artiga explains that Funes has an incentive to do what’s necessary to keep the FMLN’s support in order to implement his policies. Furthermore, no party wins an election to lose the next. The FMLN has a strong incentive do everything possible to make a Funes presidency –what would be the FMLN’s first ever– as successful as possible to prove that FMLN candidates are capable of governing at a national level.

Artiga points out that a fissure within a future Rodrigo Ávila (ARENA) administration is possible as well. Arturo Zablah, currently ARENA’s vice-presidential candidate, began the campaign season as the presidential candidate for a minority party coalition. Before accepting the candidacy for vice-president from ARENA, Zablah harshly criticized past ARENA administrations in his own campaign. If Zablah chose to take up these complaints again and were to break with Ávila or the ARENA leadership, it could pose significant political difficulties for an Ávila administration.

However, this scenario is unlikely as well. The ARENA party must have considered this possibility during the process of selecting a vice-presidential candidate. In addition, Zablah’s inability to muster support for his coalition earlier in the presidential race may make him more dependent on ARENA for political capital.

Artiga concludes that while a fissure between candidates and their party’s leadership is a possible and concerning scenario for either party, there are enormous political pressures to maintain positive relationships.

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