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. 

Elections 2009

Polls opening to Rain

The first report we’re getting out of El Salvador this morning is that its raining! If you are at all familiar with weather patterns in El Salvador you know that we are in the middle of the DRY season, and not expecting rain for another two months or so.

Rain in March is rare but seems to be happening with greater frequency in recent years. Many Salvadorans believe that March rains are the result of global warming.  Some who are more superstitious may be reading a little more into today’s rain and taking it as an ominous sign that their candidate and party are doomed at the polls. We’re not experts on global warming, nor are we superstitious, so we’ll not read to much into it.lluviaii

The front page of the Newspapers today report that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE, the entity responsible for organizing and executing the elections) is ready.  Election officials expect the highest voter turn out in the nation’s history. Experts expect an estimated 67-70% of the  4.3 million registered voters will to turnout to the polls and vote today. No one is expecting the rain to keep people at home.

We’ll be posting updates throughout the day and into the evening.  As I make this post, the first votes in El Salvador’s 2009 Presidential Elections have been cast.  Stay tuned!

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

Last Minute Threats from the U.S.?

Compared to the 2004 presidential elections in El Salvador –marked by threats of economic and political repercussions from the U.S. if the FMLN candidate were to win– the U.S. government and its representatives had remained refreshingly uninvolved during this election cycle. That is until recent remarks from some members of congress calling the FMLN pro-terrorist and renewing threats of revoking Temporary Protected Status and cutting off the flow of remittances to El Salvador. Click here for full article.

Elections 2009

New Polls Tell Different Stories

Seven polls regarding the presidential elections were released in the past 8 days, and their findings differ widely. They range from a 3 point lead for Rodrigo Avila (ARENA) to a 20 point lead for Mauricio Funes. One thing is clear is that the race has gotten tighter. See the table below for a summary of the results.

Three polls were released today, Feb 26: one from Universidad Centroamericana’s University Institute on Public Opinion (IUDOP), one by CID – Gallup, and one by Mendoza y Asociados. All showed Funes with a lead, though the size varied. IUDOP showed Funes with a 18-point lead over Avila, winning 49% of respondents. CID-Gallup found Funes with a 6-point lead, and the survey by Mendoza y Asociados gave him a 3-point lead. (Escobar, Ivan and Beatriz Castillo. “Funes aventaja a Ávila en intención de voto: IUDOP” Diario Co Latino. 26 Feb 2009.)

The Salvadoran Opinion Research Center (CIOPS) at the University of Technology of El Salvador (UTEC) released a poll Feb 25. It found that 50.5% of respondents said they would vote for Funes, and 48.9% said they would vote for Avila. However, they warned that Funes lead was within the margin of error, and therefore the results were inconclusive. (Escobar, Iván. “‘Margen de error no permite asegurar ventaja’: dice Zárate” Diario Co Latino. 25 Feb 2009.)

On Feb 24, the research firm Borges y Asociados published a poll in the conservative newspaper Diario de Hoy that gave Avila a 0.9% lead over Funes, with Avila winning the support of 40.9% of respondents, and Funes winning 40.0%. Nearly a fifth remained undecided. There was no mention of the margin of error.

The survey also asked respondents a number of questions regarding their age, sex, level of education, and level of monthly income. Avila faired better than Funes in the groups of voters who are over 50 years old, who have primary education, and who earn less than $200 per month. Funes gained a majority of voters who are between 18-29 years old, are university graduates, and make more than $400/month. (Miranda, Enrique. “Ávila supera a Funes” Diario de Hoy. 24 Feb 2009)

An FMLN-sponsored poll conducted by Vox Latino, an independent Guatemalan organization, gave Funes a 20.1 point lead, only slightly higher than the 19.5% of respondents that said that they could change their mind before the election. (Andrade, Teresa. “Una encuesta interna FMLN les favorece ampliamente.” El Mundo. 24 Feb 2009.)

On Feb 18 Jabes Market Research firm published a poll in which respondents were given a ballot to mark their presidential preferences if the election were today. The study found that 41% of participants chose Avila (ARENA), 38% chose (FMLN), a three point lead for Avila. It is worth noting that 20% of the ballots were left blank; indicating either they were not planning to vote, or were still undecided.

Jabes Market Research also conducted verbal survey which yielded much different results, putting Funes 6 points ahead. Forty-four percent of respondents said they would vote for Funes, 38% said they supported Avila, and 12% (“ARENA adelante en intención de voto” Diario el Mundo. 18 Feb 2009.

Poll Results from Late FebNote: Bold outline indicates a clear lead, while dotted indicates a lead that falls within the assumed margin of error.

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.

Advocacy, Elections 2009

Pre-Election Advocacy in the Lower Lempa

Yesterday the Diario Co-Latino highlighted the United Communities’ initiative to organize the communities affected by flooding and advocate for government action.  The president of United Communities, José Santos Guevara is quoted denouncing the governminent’s claims that they have completed the levees along the Lempa River. The levees  remain incomplete and the corresponding entities have yet to begin repairs of areas damaged by last October’s flooding.  (See post from October 2008)

isla-de-mendez3

The article comes on the heels of a 5-day march to San Salvador organized by the communities of El Salvador’s four river basins – all of whom are affected by flooding year after year .  Community representatives will present their demands at the Presidential Palace on Friday February 27th.

To see the article in Spanish click here.