On 2 February, Salvadorans came out in numbers to participate in elections to choose their next President and Vice-President. Their preferred choice by a considerable margin (10 percentage points) was the incumbent FMLN ticket of Peace Accords signatory, school teacher, and former guerrilla commander, Salvador Sánchez Cerén, and the popular Mayor of Santa Tecla (a model municipality in El Salvador), Óscar Ortiz.
However, the FMLN fell just short of the required 50% plus one vote threshold to win outright in the first round (it won 49% of the vote and won in 13 of the country’s 14 provinces). This sets up a decisive run-off election on 9 March between the FMLN and a devastated 2nd place finisher, the right-wing ARENA party. The third place finisher, the populist rightist UNIDAD coalition led by ousted ARENA president Tony Saca, earned 11% of the vote and could play an important role in the run-off despite having chosen officially not to support either of the two remaining competitors.
SalvAide once again accompanied Salvadorans as they exercised their hard-fought democratic electoral rights, and we invite Canadians to join us on 9 March for the definitive election. We congratulate the Salvadoran people and in particular the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) for an impressively well-organized and festive first-round election. As part of our partner CIS’ 90-strong international observer mission, the SalvAide team – present in La Palma, Chalatenango, Mejicanos, San Salvador, and the capital itself – witnessed an orderly, transparent, and peaceful election on Sunday, arguably the most secure and collaborative electoral event since the signing of the Peace Accords in 1992. SalvAide especially applauds the full implementation of residential voting throughout the country which brought voting centres much closer to Salvadorans’ homes.
Perhaps the biggest disappointment, particularly from the perspective of Salvadoran expatriates, was the annulment of approximately half of ballots sent from abroad apparently for missteps in the complicated protocol expatriate voters were obliged to follow. For the upcoming run-off SalvAide urges the TSE to give preference to the right of Salvadorans abroad to have their votes counted over at best pedantic and at worst malicious adherence to protocols that we suggest require immediate revision.
If you would like to join SalvAide’s election observer team for the 9 March run-off. We already have a growing and dynamic team and as always welcome Canadians who value the struggle for social justice and sustainable development in El Salvador.