Final thoughts on 2015 national elections
After almost a month of vote counting, you can see all the final results of El Salvador's March 1 elections here at the TSE website. Two things are worth noting in my final post about those elections: the country is evenly split between left and right, and Nayib Bukele, not the FMLN, won the mayor's office in San Salvador.
In the 2014, presidential elections, Salvador Sanchez Ceren and the FMLN defeated Norman Quijano and ARENA by only 6000 votes out of 3 million votes cast, a difference of 0.22%. That even split continues to show itself in the votes cast in 2015. In races for the National Assembly, ARENA had 38.77% of the vote and the FMLN had 37.28% of the votes. When you include the normal alliances among parties, ARENA and its allies have 42 seats in the National Assembly. The FMLN and its ally GANA also have 42 seats. In the races for the Central American Parliament, ARENA and the FMLN each won 8 seats and the minor parties divide up the remaining 4 seats.
The very even split, especially in the National Assembly, ends up giving extra bargaining power to the small parties and GANA who can shift a majority one way or another with their support. Neither the FMLN nor ARENA can advance anything by itself, but both have sufficient strength to block any action which requires a super-majority vote of the legislature.
In the race for mayor of San Salvador, the story line was the personal appeal of young, hip Nayib Bukele. Looking at the votes, it is clear that his personal appeal had more to do with his election victory than his party affiliation with the FMLN. In recent years, the party of the former guerrillas has struggled in the capital city. In 2009 and 2012 elections, ARENA claimed the mayor's office. In 2014, the FMLN trailed in presidential voting in San Salvador. This year, in the elections for the National Assembly, ARENA garnered 49% of the votes to only 37% for the FMLN.
Yet in the mayoral election, the story was different. Bukele won 48.5% to 46.5%. He had 23,000 more votes than the FMLN received for its deputies in the National Assembly. While the FMLN has been celebrating its recapture of the mayor's office in San Salvador, this victory belongs much less to the party than to its candidate who pointedly never wore the party colors.