All indications tonight are that Mauricio Funes, the former television journalist, achieved victory today in the presidential elections in El Salvador. Very early on, the election returns being reported by the media showed that the candidate of the leftist FMLN had garnered support throughout the country sending red clad FMLN supporters into the streets to celebrate and sending the conservative ARENA party to defeat for the first time in two decades. By 8:45pm El Salvador time, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal had released results showing Funes with 51.6% of the vote and Avila with 48.4%. This reflected a tally of 73% of the votes.
Funes will assume the presidency of a country with many problems. Among those problems are high levels of crime and violence and an economy that does not provide jobs sufficient to support a large percentage of Salvadoran families. He will have a divided government -- the FMLN will have a plurality in the National Assembly, with conservative ARENA and PCN having a potential majority coalition.
The country is highly polarized as a result of an election campaign which featured nonstop negative campaigning by ARENA.