El Salvador: Left wins first round in poll

With more than 99% of polling places reporting, the candidate for the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), Salvador Sanchez Ceren, easily won the first round of El Salvador’s presidential elections on February 2.

Sanchez Ceren scored nearly 49% of the vote, more than ten-points higher than Norman Quijano of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), who placed second with 39%. Former president Tony Saca garnered just over 11% of the vote. The FMLN and ARENA will head to a run-off on March 9.

The electoral observation mission of the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CIPES), which included delegates from the National Lawyers Guild and various US universities, said the electoral proceedings were calm and peaceful.

Laura Embree-Lowry reported for CISPES’ mission: “This has been a much more transparent and peaceful process than we’ve observed in the past.”

Observers noted the positive impact of several steps taken by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal over the past four years to increase both voter access and transparency, especially the new neighbourhood voting system.

Embree-Lowry said: “CISPES has observed every election since the peace accords [in the early 1990s]. Today’s election shows that the process of democratisation in the country continues to advance.”

Amid cheering crowds and a sky full of fireworks, Sanchez Ceren gave a rousing speech to announce victory in the first-round.

[Abridged from .]