Wednesday, January 21, 2009

The January 2009 elections

The final count from Sunday's elections is not yet in, but the results are different than I (and many others) predicted.

Here are some of the major points to take away from the elections:

1) The balance of power in the National Assembly is staying the same. The FMLN increased its seat from 32 to 35-37 seats. That leaves it short of the 43 seat majority. It appears that ARENA will have 32 seats (down from 34) but since its traditional ally the PCN should have 11 seats, the right wing should continue to have majority control of the National Assembly.

2) The FMLN is the most popular political party in the country. If we look at the votes for deputies to the National Assembly which are allocated on a party basis, we get the best look at the population's preference. In the most recent results posted on the Supreme Electoral Tribunal website, the FMLN received 49.5% of the votes for deputy, ARENA received 40% and no other party received more than 3.1% of the vote. That should be a good sign for Mauricio Funes and the FMLN in the March presidential elections, but there may be a possibility that Funes might have a struggle to win in the first round of the election.

3) The election in San Salvador may show signs of a maturing democracy. Despite the popularity of the FMLN in the country this year, the party could not manage to get the incumbent mayor of San Salvador, Violeta Menjivar, re-elected. The FMLN claims that the result was caused by a massive illegal influx of voters from outside of the capital. I don't think so. What happened in San Salvador is that a certain portion of the voters appeared to decide to split their votes on National Assembly and mayor. People who voted for the FMLN for the National Assembly also voted for Norman Quijano of ARENA for mayor. In other words, they were voting based on who they thought (rightly or wrongly) was the best able to govern, rather than voting strictly on party lines. This result was foreshadowed in polls late last year which showed voters favoring Quijano over Menjivar when it came to the question of ability to govern the capital city. I also saw evidence that ARENA may have had a better organized get out the vote campaign in the capital to get its supporters to the polls.

4) The results in San Salvador re-energized ARENA. Since the polls going into the mayor's race in San Salvador showed Menjivar with a reasonable lead, the solid victory by Norman Quijano has given ARENA new reasons for hope as it heads towards the March presidential election. We will hear much more rhetoric about the fallibility of polls.

5) Expect a nasty presidential political campaign between now and March 15. The tone was set by Rodrigo Avila as he spoke after Norman Quijano's victory speech. Avila attacked the FMLN as communists, terrorists,Venezuela-lovers and enemies of democracy. We'll hear more of that in the weeks to come.

6) Regarding mayors in the rest of the country, both major parties could claim victories. ARENA holds the mayor's office in the greatest number of cities, but the cities in which the FMLN holds the office have a greater number of total residents.

Personal note -- most regular readers of the blog probably noticed my sudden silence for the past several days. Here's the explanation. I was in El Salvador as an election observer. The night before the elections, after touring several voting centers in San Salvador, I took a severe fall and fractured my knee and had to have surgery. So I spent a few nights in the hospital in San Salvador and didn't have the energy to blog. I'm back home now and recovering and plan to get back to a regular blogging pace in the near future.

17 comments:

George Fulmore said...

Thanks for the summary, Tim. Much appreciated. Hope your knee heals in good time. Assuming that the broken knee was not some kind of an election-observer punishment. Relly appreciate your blog.

Anonymous said...

I am a regular reader and I am sad to here that you were injured while in El Salvador ....

I hope you feel better and look forward to your future posts.

Anonymous said...

Hope you the best Tim and thank you for loving that little country of mine. I appreciate your blog and I can tell that you love El Salvador as well as we, Salvadoreans do...Hope you recuparate soon...and God Bless you!!!-Mauricio Guevara

Anonymous said...

Wow! Sorry to hear about your knee, and may you have a speedy recovery.

By the way, a bit of hospital and medical care blogging from your foreign perspective would be quite interesting.

E-V

POLYCARPIO said...

You're a hard worker and a true friend of El Salvador. Hope your knee will heal and that you will be back in the saddle in no time.

boz said...

Get better.

Anonymous said...

Tim, I hope you get well soon!
Would you or anybody here have a source that would explain me the electoral system in El Salvador? In particular, I would like to know how the seats in the legislative assembly are allocated. What are the residual votes and how are they counted? Thank you.

Anonymous said...

Tim,

Hope you get better quickly and have no long term effects. Your take on the hospital/medical system would be interesting as well. I've been in the ER a couple times in one of the private hospitals, Para Vida, and received very good care here. Thanks for the blog. Wally

George Fulmore said...

Since I see others have asked questions on electoral procedures, I'd like to add a few. One, I'm told that the press cannot endorse candidates. True? Do they have influence or are the papers and networks objective? Also, what sways Salvadorean voters? Neighbors/family? Regions? It seems like there is still a log of hate out there, especially from ARENA. How effective is that? Thanks.

Yo Camino said...

I split my vote for the Mayor and the National Assembly... Not many Salvadorans are used to hearing about 'split voters', both Arena and FMLN fanboys weren't happy when I mentioned I had split my vote.

Anonymous said...

Tim, thanks for your hard work during the elections and I trust you are feeling better. Hope they had good painkillers at the "Hospital" you used.

Mark

Anonymous said...

right on the money tim, ha ha, it sucks u suffered an accident. will you be back to monitor the presidential elections?

POLYCARPIO said...

Question for Tim's readers: what do we think of the slow count? Walter Araujo was on TV Sunday night saying the TSE was "like a Ferrari" and would dazzle everyone by how quickly it made it to the finish line of the process. I'm not that dazzled ...

Anonymous said...

Hope you get well soon Tim. I missed your posts.

Anonymous said...

I am an avid reader of your blog and have been since I came back from El Salvador this summer. Tim, I wanted to thank you for allow your effort and passion you put into writing the blog. I am sorry to hear about your accident and I wish you well and . I hope you have a speedy recovery. Best of health to you.

David said...

Tim, Best to you.

Anonymous, for an academic review of El Salvador's PR system, see http://www.dartmouth.edu/~jcarey/el%20salvador.pdf (which also has proposals for reform).

WOLA also has a 1991 report on the elections in ES (that I wrote) that explains how deputies are elected via residuals, etc., but it doesn't seem to be online

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