(Updated March 14) El Salvador: FMLN wins presidency; right wing trying to steal election

FMLN presidential candidate Salvador Sanchez Ceren.

March 13, 2014 -- Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador -- Just after 1:30 am this morning, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal announced the final count from the Sunday, March 9 election, giving a decisive victory to the leftist FMLN party over right-wing ARENA (50.11% to 49.89%).

Over the past three days, ARENA has tried (almost) every trick in the book to prevent the FMLN’s Salvador Sánchez Cerén from being named president –- from calling on the armed forces to defend their false “victory” to initiating legal measures to annul the entire election.

Ultraconservative US allies of ARENA –- like Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen –- are already backing ARENA’s attempted electoral sabotage.

Though the State Department has shown public support for the Tribunal, we need more voices in Congress weighing in on the side of democracy, reinforcing the State Department’s position and keeping ARENA politically isolated from international support.

With ARENA’s legal challenges to the election still pending, the next few days will be critical to ensuring that Sánchez Cerén can take his rightful place as the next president of El Salvador on June 1.

El Salvador: FMLN wins presidency; right wing trying to steal election

By Alexis Stoumbelis

March 12, 2014 -- Committee in Solidarity with the People of El Salvador -- It’s hard to believe that only two days have passed since the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front's (FMLN) thrilling victory in the second round of El Salvador's presidential election on Sunday, March 9 – so much has happened in the meantime. The right wing is moving swiftly to derail the democratic process and stop Salvador Sanchez Ceren from being announced as president – we need your help. Join CISPES’ Emergency Response Network to receive action alerts when our solidarity is called upon.

Tomorrow and the next day will be critical, as the US allies of the Salvadoran right, including members of Congress, are already on the move to legitimise this outrageous attempt to overturn the election results.

This morning, the official and final vote count began to confirm the results of Sunday’s election in El Salvador. Though the FMLN margin of victory was razor thin (50.11% to 49.89%), news reports that the election is “too close to call” are misleading. The preliminary count from El Salvador’s electoral authority, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), with 100% of voting tables reporting, shows the FMLN with 6634 more votes than ARENA, which is considered an irreversible trend. In the weeks to come, more analysis will be coming out about why the elections results were so close in the end – for now, check out today’s article in Upside Down World.

It may have been a close race but FMLN is the clear winner, and the TSE’s announcement of the final results later this week is likely to make that official. (Check out our own Laura Embree-Lowry reporting on Democracy Now! as to why Sunday’s elections were the most transparent that we’ve ever observed.)

But the right is not going down without a fight. This morning, our observer mission was dispatched to TSE headquarters where several thousand ARENA activists had gathered to protest and demand a ballot-by-ballot recount of Sunday’s vote. Perhaps recruited by a barrage of Facebook ads from the Nationalist Republican Youth, ARENA’s youth wing, they held pre-printed signs reading “No to fraud” and “Vote by vote.”

ARENA is mobilising its members to the streets to call for the results, which have not yet been officially announced, to be annulled. An hour ago, ARENA members within the TSE walked out of the official count as a way to further derail the process and prevent the Salvador Sanchez Ceren from being declared the victor. Stay tuned for more on our blog.

If you followed the election of President Nicolás Maduro in Venezuela last April, this may all seem like déjà vu. Maduro’s right-wing challenger Henrique Capriles also called fraud and demanded a vote-by-vote recount, despite the fact that Jimmy Carter has called Venezuela’s electoral system “the best in the world.”

It’s not surprising that ARENA’s Norman Quijano is taking a page out of Capriles’ playbook, considering they share the same Miami-based campaign strategist J.J. Rendón. Rendón‘s strategy to sow the seeds of doubt about the election’s legitimacy has been highly effective, so much that so the US has still not acknowledged Maduro’s presidency.

But that’s not the only reason that listening to Quijano’s "victory" speech on Sunday night sent shivers of fear down our spines. As he exhorted the crowd gathered at his “victory” rally: “As of this moment we are ready for war. Our armed forces are watching this fraud that is brewing. We are committed to defending this victory, we are going to fight with our lives if necessary.”

Whether or not you remember the days of the armed conflict in El Salvador, when the military brutally repressed the popular movement in service of the elite, I’m sure you can imagine how scary a pronouncement this was to hear.

In the upcoming days and weeks, our Salvadoran allies will be mobilising to defend the FMLN victory in the face of ARENA’s attempts to discredit the results, and they need solidarity allies to remain alert and ready to act.

Can we count on you? As FMLN leader William Hernández told our delegation yesterday morning, “The days to come will be hard and the next five years won’t be easy. We will urgently need the solidarity of CISPES and allies in the US, and we know we can count on you like we always have.”

CISPES is ready for anything, whether that’s pressuring on the US government not to fall prey to the right-wing’s trap or providing direct financial and mobilisation support for the social movement here on the ground

The Salvadoran people will not rest until their victory is assured and neither can we!


Loser in El Salvadoran presidential election seeks to nullify vote

March 12, 2014 -- As the Salvadoran National Electoral Authority (TSE) began the final official vote count in Sunday’s hotly contested presidential election, members of the party which lost in the preliminary count demanded measures that would delay and ultimately nullify the process as a whole.

Charging the TSE with fraud, the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA in Spanish) walked out of the final vote count on Tuesday afternoon. Their actions followed inflammatory remarks issued by their candidate, Norman Quijano, on Sunday night, in which he declared victory, implored the party faithful to “prepare for war” and called upon the Salvadoran army to intervene in the nation’s politics, which is expressly forbidden in the Salvadoran constitution. This resulted in a tense situation for a country still recovering from the ravages of a bloody civil war that ended in 1992.

CISPES election observers share reports with Salvadoran media

CISPES election observers share reports with Salvadoran media.

“It seems clear that ARENA’s actions are intended to subvert the process since they haven’t presented any evidence of fraud and they are demanding a recount before the first count is even over,” says Alexis Stoumbelis, Executive Director of CISPES. She added, “We have observed every election since the war ended, and this one is far and away the most transparent and fair.”

The preliminary results give the victory to Salvador Sanchez Ceren of the ruling Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN in Spanish), who eked out a narrow 6,600 vote victory. Ceren’s 1,494,144 votes (preliminary results) is the highest ever received by a presidential candidate in the nation’s history. The record voter turnout helped ARENA, who suffered a major defeat in the election’s first round; however, calls from the party to its leadership to defend their vote have resulted in only small protests, ranging from several hundred to a few thousand people.

Eugenio Chicas, president of the TSE, rejected ARENA’s demands for a vote-by-vote recount, and affirmed that the process would continue in accordance with the nation’s electoral code and constitution. He invited ARENA representatives to rejoin the process and extended an offer for the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Human Rights Ombudsman to mediate the dispute. ARENA representatives are expected to rejoin the count Wednesday morning.

Reports from thousands of national and international observers contradicted ARENA’s claims of fraud and instead congratulated Salvadoran voters and electoral authorities for conducting a transparent and efficient process. The United Nations, the OAS and the US State Department all echoed observers’ assessment of the elections and endorsed the TSE process already underway.

Final certification of the results is expected late March 13 or 14.

[Members of CISPES’s electoral observer delegation are still in country and are available for interviews. Contact Lisa Fuller at lisa@cispes.org or +503 7196-9100.]