The next election in El Salvador

The next election in El Salvador involves magistrates for the country's Supreme Court of Justice.  Saturday, March 10, lawyers across the country will go and cast their votes for candidates for the high court.   The elections are organized by the Federation of Attorney Associations of El Salvador (FEDAES). A video urges the lawyers to elect honest and competent judges:

Thirty thousand lawyers will be able to cast ballots for 22 candidates.  Bios of the candidates are available here. This election will reduce to 15, the number of potential candidates for the Supreme Judicial Court.   In addition to those 15 candidates, 15 more candidates are chosen by the National Council of the Judiciary.   This total list of 30 candidates represents the body from which El Salvador's legislative National Assembly should pick new magistrates to the court.

The National Assembly will ultimately elect five new magistrates this July, by a two thirds super-majority vote.   The five new magistrates make up one third of the Court's magistrates and serve nine year terms.    Four of those new magistrates are scheduled to go the the Constitutional Chamber (Sala de lo Constitucional).

The expiration of the terms of four of the five magistrates from the Constitutional Chamber is extremely important for the legal and political system in El Salvador.   These are the magistrates who have been responsible for such things as invalidating the 1993 amnesty law, requiring that citizens be allowed to vote for candidates from different parties, issuing an order of habeas corpus against the army in a case of youth disappeared by soldiers, and more.   These magistrates have also issued orders which have frustrated plans of recent FMLN governments including invalidating government borrowing plans and prohibiting the SITRAMSS bus system from using a designated lane in the capital city.    Over the last few years, the FMLN has been increasingly strident in its complaints against the magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber.

After the March 4 elections, however, the FMLN has potentially lost any voice in who is chosen for the Court.    Previously the FMLN always had more that 28 deputies and could block super-majority votes. The FMLN thus had to be consulted in order to elect any magistrates.   After this most recent election of deputies to the National Assembly, however, the FMLN has dropped to 22 seats and conservative parties can elect magistrates without regard to the position of the leftist party.  This could be one of the most important long term results of the FMLN's disastrous loss at the polls on March 4.

Campaign posters of judicial candidates in stairwell of courthouse in Santa Ana, El Salvador