Friday, March 13, 2009

Keys to the presidential election

Lots of articles are being written with predictions of what is key and important in this Sunday's election. (They can't all be right).

The Christian Science Monitor writes that evangelicals are key to El Salvador elections. The articles describes a movement of the evangelical Christian population of El Salvador towards the left, compared with a strong preference for ARENA in 2004.

The Associated Press has an article stating that the difference could be Salvadorans who live in the US:

"Potentially, the people who send remittances have a privileged status over those who receive the remittances, who could listen to the political message that their family members want to give them," said sociologist Gaspar Rivera-Salgado, professor of immigration and labor at the University of California, Los Angeles. "It's an interesting political exercise—an indirect influence."
In an article titled A win for El Salvador leftist appears less certain, the Los Angeles Times sees the possibility that ARENA's advertising focusing on linking the FMLN to the violence of the civil war may tip the balance in voter's minds:
Major Salvadoran newspapers, most of which are controlled by right-wing interests, have warned that an FMLN victory would jeopardize the country's relationship with the U.S. and the immigration status of the 2.5 million Salvadorans who live in the United States, as well as the billions of dollars they send home.

Even though a quarter-million first-time voters expected in this election were born too late to remember the war, the images may have succeeded in touching raw nerves.

"This type of campaign is less effective than it used to be, but it still has impact," said Jeannette Aguilar, director of the Public Opinion Institute at San Salvador's University of Central America. "There is a segment of the population for whom it creates a powerful, paralyzing feeling."
My own take concerning the key to the elections comes down to some basic political issues. First, which party can get its supporters to the polls? The FMLN seems, perhaps, to have a more spirited base as seen in its ability to mobilize an enormous crowd for last weekend's rally in San Salvador. Mauricio Funes has a star power which Rodrigo Avila can't match,similar to that of Barack Obama. But ARENA has money, organization, logistics and practice in getting out the vote. I saw their operation in San Salvador last January, and it is a force not to be underestimated.

Second, how much has the barrage of negative advertising by ARENA and its allies created a dynamic similar to the 2004 election? ARENA is using the same playbook -- assert that an FMLN victory will damage the relationship with the US and the status of Salvadorans living there and link the FMLN to a violent past. That climate of fear was very effective in 2004, and no doubt it will impact some voters again.

Third, how much do Salvadorans in the middle of the political spectrum desire change? Poll after poll shows die hard support for each major party runs at about 30% -- both ARENA and the FMLN can count on 1/3 of the electorate, but the rest is undecided, not telling, or favors a minor party. In 2004, all those voters rejected the FMLN when it ran the hard left Schafik Handal as its presidential candidate. In 2009, the desire for change after 20 years of ARENA rule and a much more moderate FMLN candidate in Funes could tip the balance.

2 comments:

.wx. said...

Definitely there is no doubt that followers on both parties have really pushed hard this election. It's been a constant information war, Email and Youtube have been the tool of choice for both major parties. And now that we are one day from elections, there is only one thing that worries me,. And is not who wins, what worries me is,. what will be the result,., or better said,. which will be the behavior taken by those who loose. Last thing we need are riots or uprisings., d+.+b !!

David said...

I agree with the previous comment, with the caveat that, if the results are not so close (not sure how to define that), it will make it harder for such potential violence to prosper.

Good roundup of the issues, Tim. Great longish articles over at www.elfaro.net worth checking out.