Elections 2009

Polls are Closed!

Observers throughout the country are reporting massive participation in the elections. By 4pm, with an hour until the polls close, a source in Soyapango stated that they had observed a participation of 60%.

Early exit polling has shown Funes up by a significant margin. However, these results are preliminary, and carry a large margin of error. A representative of FESPAD stated that by their estimates the winning candidate needs a margin of victory of at least 90,000 votes to be confident that the outcome was not influenced by fraud.

Irregularities

In addition to the power outage in Apopa for most of the day, electricity went out at 3 voting centers in Soyapango at 4pm. Because the results must be transmitted digitally, these outages have worrisome implications for the processing and announcement of the final results. Any delays to the announcement of victory will likely heighten tensions.

FESPAD (the Foundation for the Application of Law) stated that they are receiving a fewer total number of complaints of logistical problems with the electoral process than in January. However, a representative from FESPAD said that the complaints they are receiving are more serious than in January.

The majority of irregularities reported to FESPAD fall into three categories:

1) Influencing voters with t-shirts, inappropriate campaigning, food, or money

2) Obstruction of voting; for example, a business reportedly did not let its workers vote

3) Large concentrations of people (suspicious), ARENA is claiming that they are people working in ‘logistica’

Thankfully, there are very few reports of violence, and only 3-4 cases of people attempting vote twice.

Now that the polls are closed, all attention turns to counting the votes and reporting them to the TSE center.  Voices staff will be at the TSE center for the rest of the evening, monitoring the process. We will continue to monitor the power outages and report any results as they come in. 

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Elections 2009

TSE’s 10 steps to an orderly Election Day

Yesterday, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) announced 10 steps it is taking to ensure an orderly election day for all. TSE officials have discussed many of these steps over the past months, but decided on some of them at the last minute. (Click here to read more)

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.

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.

Elections 2009

US requests that FMLN not use Obama’s image

Yesterday, the Charge d’ Affairs for the United States Embassy, Robert Blau, requested that the FMLN stop the use of President Barack Obama’s image in their campaign advertisements.

The television ad in question features several images of President Obama, and focuses on drawing comparisons between Obama and the FMLN presidential candidate, Mauricio Funes. The advertisement asserts that both Obama and Funes have been falsely accused of connection to terrorism and extremist governments. It goes on to say that both offer a message of hope and change in a time of crisis.

This ad is seen as a part of a strategy by the FMLN to respond to suggestions by the ARENA party that a Funes presidency would endanger El Salvador’s relationship with the United States.

Blau stated that the use of Obama’s image in campaign ads may give the wrong impression that the US endorses a particular candidate. He reaffirmed the pledge of former Ambassador to El Salvador Charles Glazer that the US would not get involved in the nation’s elections, and will respect Salvadorans’ ability to elect their own leader.

Earlier in the campaign season, ARENA also ran a television advertisement congratulating Obama on his victory and displaying an image of Obama and ARENA’s party logos and flag.

Many leftists agree that the Obama has the right to request that his image not be used in the Salvadoran campaign. However, they also point out that Obama’s image was used in a tone of respect and admiration, unlike the use of images of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Bolivian President Evo Morales in attack ads run by ARENA linking Funes with the South American leaders.

The FMLN has announced that it will re-examine the use of Obama’s image.