Salvadoran elections go to second round

March 30, 1994

SAN SALVADOR — FMLN-Democratic Convergence (CD) presidential candidate Ruben Zamora, achieved a vote of 25.29% in the March 20 elections. With 83.6% of the vote counted, the ruling ARENA's candidate, Calderon Sol, had 49.26%.

Since no candidate won an absolute majority, a second round of voting will occur on the April 24.

In the elections for the National Assembly, ARENA achieved 39 deputies to the FMLN's 22, the Christian Democrats (PDC) 18, the military party (PCN) 3, Democratic Convergence (CD) 1 and an evangelical party (Unidad) 1. In the municipal elections, the overall vote was 49.28% for ARENA, 26.05% for FMLN and 15.58% for PDC. ARENA has control of 140 municipalities, PDC 11 and FMLN 8 in Morazan, Cuscatlan, San Vincente, Cabanas and San Salvador.

Although 3 million people are of voting age, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, TSE, recorded a mere 1,110,099 valid votes. This is a reflection of the "technical fraud" perpetrated prior to the elections, whereby over a million people were excluded from the electoral process.

Between July and November 1993 the TSE undertook a massive documentation process in preparing the rolls. The Salvadoran Association for Peace and Democracy, which independently monitored this process, found huge discrepancies. These included 150,000 young people who didn't have IDs; 310,000 registrations that the TSE did not validate; 74,270 applications not processed in former conflict zones.

There were 400,000 dead and 300,000 US residents included on the role, and 130,000 appeared who didn't have birth certificates. In summary, of the voting population of 2.9 million, only 1.7 million were able to obtain the electoral card issued by the TSE and have their name appear on the role.

The tone for the elections was set as we travelled into the former conflict zone of Usulatan by the deployment of military personnel on the highway, supposedly protecting the coffee harvest — which had already been brought in. Despite regulations specifying no distribution of party literature, ARENA and PCN were handing out leaflets close to the polling booths.

Voting was to begin at 7am and close at 5pm, but a number of booths took two hours to open, and some closed before 5.

Many people had to travel overnight to get to the polling booths, the TSE breaking a promise to organise transport on the day. In the province of Chalatenango, four municipalities were abolished and put into one central area. In another eight municipalities, the ballot papers omitted one of the parties. In many places, the Junta Receptoras de Votes, JRV, who oversaw the voting, could not read or write. In San Salvador, the voting centre of Feria Internacional had 100,000 people on the rolls, resulting in massive queues. People voting in the morning waited three to five hours in the hot sun; many left without voting.

Illiteracy proved to be one of the greatest problems; 75% of people in rural areas are unable to read or write. This made finding their names on the appropriate polling booth virtually impossible, and allowed literate members of political parties, in particular ARENA, to guide people through the voting.

Further problems existed with the lists, which were often incomplete and did not always match the lists publicly posted. At the municipality of San Francisco Javier, in the province of Usulatan, the mayor had his own list which he used outside the polling booth, sending away potential voters. The UN observers took no action.

Other instances of fraud included the buying of votes, destruction of ballot papers, harassment of voters by right-wing parties and collaboration of electoral officials with right-wing party representatives. At a press conference at Hotel Presidente, Joaquin Villalobas of the FMLN displayed a special bracelet worn by ARENA supporters, which had ink on the inside and could have been used to mark ballot papers, making them void. Nicaraguans were found voting for ARENA illegally, and people younger than 18 were found to have voted. Villalobas had a mountain of evidence to show that fraud had taken place on the day.

International observers not linked with the UN held a press conference on March 23. Representatives from Spain, Mexico and Australia were seen on television detailing instances of fraud and exposing the abuse of democratic rights.

In spite of all the fraud, the FMLN, which has been able to operate legally only since September 1992, has become the second force in Salvadoran politics.

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