With roughly 9,500 ballot boxes, each requiring a bare minimum of 6 staff members each, spread across 480 voting centers, the task of organizing and executing elections is daunting. Analysts have identified security, qualified voting center staff, and rapid result transmission as priorities to be addressed before the presidential elections on March 15. (Click here to view the full post)
A total of $15.8 million was spent on campaign advertising in the run up to the municipal and legislative elections in January, according to study by Salvadoran NGO, National Foundation for Development (FUNDE) in partnership with Transparency International.
The ARENA party advertising alone accounted for nearly two-thirds of the total amount spent, paying $10.3 million for advertising. The FMLN spent significantly less, just over $3 million or 19% of the total.
Fuerza Solidaria, a right-wing Venezuelan organization, was the next largest spender, paying out $1.1 million for pro-ARENA ads. This is roughly the same amount spent by all other political parties. Amigos de Funes, an organization supporting Mauricio Funes as a candidate, spent $67,899 or 0.4% of the total.
This level of spending is much higher than during past election campaigns. Parties and other organizations spent $7.8 million prior to the presidential elections in 2004, and only $4.2 million for the municipal and legislative elections in 2006. The amount of spending is expected to go up before the presidential elections in March.
Political analysts have expressed concern over the high level of campaign spending in a country without campaign finance regulations or laws guaranteeing access to information, a situation that could give large contributors -individuals or interest groups- inappropriate influence over politicians.
For articles in Spanish, see “Partidos sobrepasan $15 millones en propaganda electoral, dice FUNDE” from Diario Co Latino and/or “Partidos gastaron $15 mlls en un año de proselitismo” from La Prensa Grafica.
Interview with Dagoberto Gutierrez
One of ARENA’s campaign strategies has been to emphasize its good political and economic relationship with the United States, while painting Mauricio Funes as the puppet of a radical communist FMLN whose goal is to implement a Chavez-style economy in El Salvador. When our delegation met with Dagoberto Gutierrez, one of the signers of the 1992 Peace Accords and a political analyst at the Universidad Luterano (Lutheran University), he offered a very different view of the nation’s two largest parties.
Gutierrez described the FMLN as drifting towards the center in order to court voters, and in the process giving up several of the more radical planks of its platform. According to Gutierrez, neither candidate would threaten El Salvador’s relationship with the US, or challenge the nation’s oligarchy in any significant way.
However, Gutierrez stressed that this election is nevertheless very important. He believes the difference between the parties is in how the financial crisis will be handled. He says “if ARENA wins, the poor will be the ones to pay for the crisis. But if the FMLN wins, then there is a chance that the poor won’t be the ones [to pay for the crisis.]”