One week to legislative and municipal elections

January 18 is the date for El Salvador's triennial elections for mayors and deputies to the National Assembly. Depending on the poll, the FMLN is leading by 6-15% nationwide in the preferences for deputies and by smaller margins in the mayor's races. These elections could foreshadow the outcome of the presidential election on March 15. And given Mauricio Funes' popularity and double digit lead in several polls, there could be a "Funes effect" which sweeps FMLN candidates into office in many races.

The chart above shows the seats held by the different parties in the National Assembly over the past two decades. There are 84 seats in the National Assembly, so an effective majority requires 43 deputies. No party has held 43 seats in any recent term, so coalitions must be built. Generally the majority coalition has been the conservative ARENA and PCN parties, to go along with ARENA's control of the presidency.

A question for this week's elections will be whether or not the FMLN can increase the number of seats it holds in the National Assembly from its current 32 seats. Can ARENA and the PCN avoid losing more than 1 seat combined so that they continue to have a majority in the National Assembly? Does the trend evident in the 2006 election, where the minor parties lost seats to ARENA, continue?

Another outcome of the 2006 election was the FMLN's loss of the mayor's office in many municipalities across the country. Will the FMLN win some of those offices back?

There will be a great deal of scrutiny of El Salvador's electoral authority, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE for its initials in Spanish). The TSE has invited election observers from the European Union and Organization of American States as well as Central American and Caribbean nations. NGO's will also have election observers at polling places throughout the country (I'll be one). This is especially important since more than half of Salvadorans stated in a poll last year that they believe there will be fraud in the elections.


Unknown said…
Concerning fraud and the more than half of salvadorans who believe it, also a majority of salvadorans also believe in an afterlife, whatever denomination they belong to.

And the afterlife may or may not be true, even independently of what I myself believe.

My point being that, just because half of the population believes there will be fraud, does not make it so, nor does it mean that they have basis to believe so.

After all, these elections have been so polarized and are so full of election related junk information, speculation and rumors, that ALL OF EL SALVADOR'S VOTERS ARE WRONG ABOUT SOMETHING THEY BELIEVE DEEPLY, CONCERNING THE TWO MAIN POLITICAL PARTIES, THEIR CANDIDATES AND THOSE CANDIDATES' METHODS AND ASPIRATIONS FOR THE FUTURE.

And anyway, since Tim will be observing, he will be able to detail post election, what he saw, and his comments give me the belief that he will be quite a neutral and educated observer.

Then again, I am also part of the whole of the electoral population who is wrong about something.

Anonymous said…
that's good, you go tim. i'm glad you'll be an observer, at least you are contributing, doing your part to have a transperent democracy and clear elections. the possibility of electoral fraud, especially emanating from the coena, is always a reasonable doubt. at least people are aware of its possibility.
Anonymous said…
If you look at past polls, i bet that the number of salvadorans who believe there will be fraud has held pretty steady over the past 15 years or so.... If that's the case, it doesn't mean much.

Tim, interested if (1) any of the electoral registry issues were resolved in the past few months (that had been signaled by some observers), (2) if not, did it end up making a difference (my sense would be that no, it won't) (3) whether there's any real merit to the "political" violence that has been alleged. On the latter point, I'm always skeptical that it's anything more than locally related disputes, which may be political, or may be not.
Anonymous said…
Tim, I'll be one international observer for a salvadoran NGO too (in march for the presidential election), coming from Italy. When I was "recruited" a few months ago by a friend of mine, I looked around for infos about this little and unknown (to me) central americal country, and I found your blog. Since then, it has been an invaluable source of information to me. This is my first trip outside Europe, and I am both excited and a little bit worried by this experience in this troubled country. I wish you as observer and all the voting salvadorans a smooth legislative and municipal electoral process!
Anonymous said…
People believe they will get wet when it is raining. Does that make them wet? Perhaps they have no basis for their belief...
Carlos X. said…
Caro Franz, grazzie per il vostro impegno in gli elezzioni di nostro piccolo paese. E sempre una fonte di speranza possere videre buona genti come lei chi desiderano un mondo megliori per tutti. Have a safe and rewarding experience in our little country!
Anonymous said…
There is an interesting poll about the Presidential Election. The poll is runned by an independent website called:

It´s interesting, looks like Mauricio Funes, and the FLMN las large chances of winning the Presidential Race.

It´s unbeliveable how fast the democracy takes place, El Salvador has been freed from war for approx. 20 years. It does not matter if you are right or left wing, what it matters is that democracy came to El Salvador to stay.