Outlook for Electoral Reforms

Political analysts widely agree that in order to ensure a strong and effective democracy in El Salvador significant reforms must be made to the country’s electoral system. Some of the most commonly suggested reforms include:

  • Guaranteeing public access to information
  • Better regulation of political parties –their formation, ethics, fund raising and campaign spending
  • Extending the vote to Salvadorans living abroad
  • Decentralizing voting centers
  • Reform of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) to separate it’s administrative and judicial functions

There have been proposals in the Legislative Assembly regarding most of these reforms, but little progress has been made. Now, all of these reforms are proposed in the political platforms of both Mauricio Funes (FMLN) and Rodrigo Ávila (ARENA). However, the question remains whether or not these will actually be implemented by a candidate once they’ve been elected.

Avaro Artiga, a political scientist at the UCA, views progress on these reforms as largely unlikely, regardless of which candidate wins, due to a number of factors.

Reforms such as extending the vote to Salvadorans living abroad and reforming the TSE may be unlikely because they are logistically tricky or costly. In addition, both parties may show a lack of enthusiasm to implement reforms such as public access to information and regulation of political parties because these would signigicantly restrict the activities of both the major parties.

On the other hand, which ever party loses the presidential elections may push for transparency reforms because they would have a larger impact on the ruling party’s power than that of an opposition party. However, Artiga notes, real progress is unlikely without increased and sustained public pressure, such as that in the run-up before an election. If these reforms have not been implemented in the run-up to this election, he believes that electoral reforms will be largely ignored until the next election cycle.

This may be especially true in the context of the global financial crisis, where dealing with the deteriorating economy will take precedence over democratic reforms.

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