Can reforms improve the image of Salvadoran democracy?

The citizens of El Salvador do not think highly of their country's democracy.   In fact, a majority feel there would be no difference under a regime which was not democratic.

These are the results of the most recent polling by Latino Barometro which regularly polls the citizens of Latin American countries on their views of government and the economy.   Salvadorans trail all the rest of Latin America in their lack of support for democracy as a form of government.

Only 28% of Salvadorans said that democracy was preferable to all other types of government:

El Salvador had the highest percentage of people who felt a democratic or a non-democratic regime would not make a difference:

After Venezuela and Nicaragua, El Salvador had the next highest percentage of people who said their country was not a democracy:

Ant not surprisingly, El Salvador had a very low number of people indicating they were satisfied with democracy:

These statistics on dissatisfaction with democracy were on everyone's minds in a forum I attended this week on the need for electoral reform in El Salvador.   The forum was sponsored by the Social Initiative for Democracy, a consortium of universities, and a network of civil society organizations. 

The conference was attended by deputies of all political parties from the legislature's Commission on Electoral and Constitutional Reform which would have to adopt any changes.  There were international and academic experts on election processes in Latin America in attendance as well as one of the Magistrates of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.  Academia and a broad swath of civil society were also represented.

Many topics of potential election reform were discussed.   The topics included:

  • Controlling election propaganda, including campaign activities around voting centers, and increasing sanctions for violations of campaign rules.
  • Improving the transparency and openness of political party processes including the process for nominating candidates.
  • Party finance reform.
  • Creating pure citizen (non-partisan) election boards.
  • A separation of functions judicial and administrative functions within the election authority so that the same body is not acting and judging its own actions.
  • Simplifying the complicated process of voting for and counting the votes for deputies in the National Assembly.
  • Improving ability of Salvadorans outside of the country to vote.
  • Updating the national election code to catch up with prior court rulings
  • Finding ways to vote for persons held in prison on charges but not yet convicted.
  • Use of technology to enhance process of voting and vote tallies.
  • Early voting.

There was agreement that El Salvador's democracy will be strengthened if appropriate reforms can be adopted by a broad consensus and not by the imposition of court rulings.   Work on reforms would have to progress quickly, the next national elections happen in early 2021, and participants generally agreed that rules of the game should usually be set at least a year prior to an election.


David said…
I would encourage you to look at LAPOP's polls and compare. LAPOP's data collection is more robust, is not private (like Latinobarometro), and comes up with surprisingly distinct results on specific issues. Wonks who care about polling have more respect for LAPOP.
Tim said…
For those who want to compare, the 2016-17 LAPOP is at . Questions are slightly different and LAPOP data is older.