Elections 2009

International Observers and Transparency

Today, the Prensa Grafica reported that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has accredited approximately 5,000 national and international election observers for tomorrow’s elections.

Magistrate Walter Araujo, President of the TSE, was quoted as saying “[The observers] will be neutral witnesses and they will guarantee transparency in the electoral process that will occur tomorrow, and that’s the principal function of the observers that will participate in the presidential elections.”

Some political analysts have expressed reservations about this emphasis on election observers. They certainly recognize the valuable contribution that observers make to transparency, but they worry that the TSE has over-emphasized electoral observation and that it has become the basis for transparency.

El Salvador’s electoral code and institutions fall well short of fulfilling international best practices for free and fair elections. Some analysts wonder if the legitimacy lent by international observer missions may obscure the fundamental inadequacies with the nation’s electoral system, and reduce the pressure to address these shortcomings.

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.