The Implications of El Salvador’s Elections

Salvador Sánchez Cerén

Salvador Sánchez Cerén, El Salvador’s current vice president and the candidate of the ruling FMLN party, defeated San Salvador Mayor Norman Quijano in the country’s February 2 presidential elections but fell just shy of the 50 percent of votes needed to avoid a second round runoff. Although experts predict that the ruling left-wing FMLN party will hold on to power, the election’s results carry important implications for the country’s future as they come amidst growing dissatisfaction with the sluggish state of its economy and a still highly dangerous, although slightly improving, security situation.

To assess the outcome of the first round’s results, the Dialogue and the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research at Tulane University hosted an event featuring two prominent political analysts from El Salvador: Roberto Rubio, executive director of the National Development Foundation (FUNDE), and Salvador Samayoa, senior advisor at the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUSADES).

While both experts agreed that the ARENA party faces an uphill battle ahead of the country’s March 9 vote, both stressed that an FMLN victory should not be interpreted as a sign of approval of the current president’s administration.

“We have to analyze the quality of the victory, not just the quantity,” stated Samayoa, who noted ARENA’s strong showing in the country’s urban centers and who attributed the success of the FMLN in rural areas to the popular social programs implemented by President Mauricio Funes.

Both also dismissed the notion that an FMLN victory would lead to the growth of ideological extremism or a deterioration of democratic institutions, although both expressed concern over the ambiguous nature of Sánchez Cerén’s positions on important issues such as the country’s gang truce and tax reform, issues of great importance in this year’s election cycle.

The Dialogue is deeply grateful to the Center for Inter-American Policy and Research at Tulane University for its support of this event.

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