Elections 2009

Funes Financial Scandal Politcally Motivated?

On Monday, the Attorney General’s Office announced that it had opened an investigation into the $2.29 million deposited into Mauricio Funes’ private bank account between January 1 and March 6 of 2009, a period during which Funes reported a monthly income of $5,000.

Attorney General Félix Garrid Safie stated that they would attempt to investigate the source of this money, and whether it came from in-country or abroad and legal or illegal sources. Safie also assured that this is a routine investigation and does not constitute any accusation against him, although this is not exactly how it has been treated in the major newspapers. (Click here for full article)

Elections 2009

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.

Elections 2009

Study Shows Disparity in Campaign Ad Spending Between Parties

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.