Australian observers for Salvadoran elections

Issue 

By Kate Shannon

On February 25 a delegation of five women will depart Australia to observe the Salvadoran elections. "We have been invited by the FMLN to join with other international representatives to observe the March 20 elections", explained Robynne Murphy to Green Left Weekly.

The five Australian observers have been active in solidarity work and aid projects to El Salvador and Central American region mainly through CISLAC, the Committees in Solidarity with Latin America and the Caribbean. Murphy is also representing her union, the AWU/FIME,the amalgamated union at the Port Kembla steelworks.

"We thought it was an important and exciting opportunity. El Salvador has not had democratic elections at all in the last 15 years. The FMLN itself will field 200 candidates to the Assembly and 2900 municipal candidates.

"Already problems have been emerging with the voter registration procedure. It is going to make the voting process a lot more difficult because not everyone has been registered and, with the background of fighting and the death squads still in existence, it's not going to be easy for people to have a real choice", Murphy said.

"The problem is not simply the fact there have been no elections for so long but that in El Salvador there has been no democratic process at all. As observers we are meant to be impartial and in the sense that we want to see a democratic election take place, we are. Nevertheless, we are there on behalf of the FMLN. The death squads have been reactivated targeting FMLN activists in a hope by right-wing groups to hamper the FMLN participation in the elections."

Murphy identified other problems that have emerged, such as the fact that rules and regulations governing the conduct of the elections and the role of observers were received by the FMLN only in the last three weeks. The government has had the rules since June.

"The regulations regarding observers are very stringent. No observers, not even from the UN, can comment on the electoral process without going through the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. If the tribunal doesn't authorise you to ,publicly comment you risk being deported if you do.

"The tribunal", points out Murphy, "is a government body. We've seen the past practice of government bodies in El Salvador. A recent government inquiry's findings were that there are no death squads in El Salvador."