More than 3 million people voted in El Salvador’s national elections, where both the leftist Farabundo Marti
National Liberation Front (FMLN) and the rightwing Nationalist Republican Alliance Party (ARENA) saw gains in the national parliament. Throughout the country, polls opened late amid international reports of irregularities and violence.
An International Observer Mission press release listed inflation of voter rolls, voting by foreigners, and buying of votes as irregularities, mainly benefiting the right. The FMLN increased its deputies in the National Assembly from 29 to 32, while ARENA garnered the most seats of any party with 34.
The FMLN also picked up some municipalities in ARENA strongholds, but lost others amid cries of electoral fraud. Critics say ARENA utilized state resources and its connections in the corporate media to redbait leftists and play on people’s fears.
In a tight mayoral election in the capital of San Salvador, FMLN candidate Violeta Menjivar declared victory on March 17. The FMLN has held the San Salvador mayor’s office for the past six years.
Worried about election fraud and vote tampering by ARENA, FMLN partisans filled the central plaza on March 16 in the capital until the Supreme Electoral Tribunal declared Menjivar the winner.
The mayoral election was in doubt for days as the ARENA-controlled electoral tribunal delayed announcing the results due to “logistical” issues. The delay created speculation that ARENA was manipulating ballots and the police responded to the FMLN protest with violence. Adding fuel to the fire, Salvadoran President Tony Saca pronounced
the ARENA mayoral candidate the winner days before the electoral tribunal’s final decision.
International observers, including the Organization of American States and the Committee In Solidarity with the People of El Salvador, criticized Saca for interference and trying to sway the electoral tribunal. All told, when the ballots were counted, Menjivar won San Salvador by 44 votes.