According to the preliminary results from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), with 99.4% of the results processed the president-elect Mauricio Funes (FMLN) has 51.3% and Rodrigo Avila (ARENA) 48.7% of the vote.
Mauricio Funes made his victory speech just after 9pm from the Sheraton Hotel on Sunday night. In his speech he promised to respect the constitution, build a government of national unity, and work with large, medium and small business owners to strengthen what he called the most dynamic economy in Central America. He also declared that his government would work for a “preferential option for the poor.”
Two hours later, Rodrigo Avila conceded defeat, and promised that ARENA would be a constructive opposition.
Their was an air of celebration from FMLN supporters as soon as the polls closed. When the FMLN announced Funes’ victory, many thousands of FMLN supporters converged in a sea of red at a monument in San Salvador, cheering, shouting, and dancing late into the night.
In a press conference Sunday night, Walter Araujo, President of the TSE, began by thanking and congratulating the people of El Salvador for their participation in Sunday’s elections, and applauded the political parties for the maturity they showed during the peaceful election process.
Observers and NGOs reported some election irregularities, but that these were largely minor in nature. Observer missions from the EU and OAS were impressed by the improvements made by the TSE in the logistical organization of these elections as compared to the elections in January.
Araujo stated that the success of this electoral process is an indication of how far democracy has come in El Salvador. In reference to the implementation of the election process the he called transparent, open, and democratic, Aruajo declared “El Salvador has won, Latin America has won, and the world has won.”
The Road Ahead
While this certainly is an historic victory for the FMLN in El Salvador, Funes will face tremendous challenges.
- Funes’ margin of victory was only 2.6%. Furthermore, the intense and often defamatory campaigning has exacerbated the political polarization in the country. Inspiring public trust in his administration and lessening political divisions will be one of his greatest challenges.
- Right-wing alliances hold a simple majority in the Legislative Assembly, but neither the right nor the left hold the two-thirds majority necessary for political appointments and incurring new debt. Working with other political parties will be difficult after such a difficult campaign season, but is absolutely essential for the FMLN and a Funes’ administration.
- Weak rule of law has plagued El Salvador for years and is rooted in the legal framework and judicial institutions. None of these will be easily or quickly changed.
- El Salvador’s economy has long been stagnant, and is characterized by staggering inequality. Facing a global economic crisis, finding ways to keep El Salvador’s economy from a severe downturn and distribute wealth more equitably seem overwhelming challenges.