El Salvador: Leftists dominate parliament after vote

Issue 

The below article is abridged from a January 19 statement from the Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, visit http://www.cispes.org.

On January 18, Salvadorans went to the polls to elect 262 mayors as well as 84 deputies in the national assembly.

After a tense day of voting, both the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) and the right-wing Arena party celebrated victories, with the FMLN declaring itself the largest political force in the country after winning the most seats in the legislative assembly.

Though results are still preliminary, it appears that the FMLN has increased its number of legislative deputies by four or five, while Arena has either lost seats or stayed at the same level.

Such a victory would give the FMLN 37 or 38 seats in the assembly to Arena's 33 or 34, a significant change in the correlation of forces.

On the other hand, Arena claimed victory in the capital city of San Salvador, though the Supreme Electoral Tribunal has yet to declare a winner and the FMLN has said that it must await more results.

Arena's Norman Quijano held a 2-3% lead with more than half the votes counted this morning.

Despite the tough reality of possibly losing San Salvador, the FMLN celebrated victories in three of the next four largest cities in El Salvador: Soyapango, Santa Tecla, and Santa Ana. The latter is an especially important victory given that the current mayor, Orlando Mena of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) party, had controlled the city for nine years.

The FMLN also won some key municipalities that it had previously not governed, including La Union, Izalco, and Zacatecaluca, as well as winning most of the other largest cities surrounding San Salvador, such as Mejicanos, Apopa, and San Marcos.

Overall, the FMLN will likely win between 80 and 90 municipalities, far more than the 59 that the party currently controls.

Many observers reported fraud on January 18, though it's unclear whether the accusations of foreigners voting, people using false voting cards and vote buying, among other things, were enough to shift the results of the municipal or legislative elections.

Though final results had not been released, Arena mayoral candidate Norman Quijano held a press conference late in the evening of January 18 to declare himself the next mayor of San Salvador. Arena has fought hard to win San Salvador in recent years and carried out an extensive smear campaign against current FMLN mayor Violeta Menjivar.

Meanwhile, at a gathering outside FMLN party headquarters, party leaders said they would respect the results of the San Salvador elections but insisted on waiting until all the votes were counted.

Mauricio Funes, the FMLN's candidate for the presidency, rallied the crowd and reminded them that the biggest contest was yet to come: the presidential elections on March 15, in which Funes holds a double-digit lead in the polls.

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