Written by: Emile Schepers
For People’s World
Tuesday, 12 March 2014
The candidate of the left wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), Salvador Sanchez Ceren, appears to have won the Mar. 9 presidential runoff elections in El Salvador, although by a much smaller margin than polls had predicted.
Sanchez Ceren had won a plurality of votes in the first round of the election on Feb. 2., but with 48.93 percent of the vote, to 36.96 percent for the right wing ARENA (Nationalist Republican Alliance) party’s Norman Quijano, Sanchez Ceren was not able to avoid a runoff. In the first round, former President Antonio Saca, also a rightist, had won 11.44 percent of the vote.
Polls going into the runoff showed Sanchez Ceren far ahead of Quijano, but when the votes were counted, although the FMLN candidate was still ahead, the difference was much smaller, at 50.11 percent for Sanchez Ceren to 49.89 percent for Quijano. Both candidates claimed victory and Quijano, yelling fraud, asked for a recount, while also hinting that intervention by the military might not be a bad idea. The recount is going forward but election officials think the original count will hold.
If his election is confirmed, Sanchez Ceren will succeed current President Mauricio Funes, who was also elected with FMLN support in 2009. But whereas Funes, a popular media personality, was not part of the FMLN in its guerrilla days in the Salvadoran Civil War of 1980 to 1992, Sanchez Ceren, currently Funes’ vice president, was an important commander of Marxist guerrilla forces which fought against a series of extreme right wing, military-dominated governments supported by the United States. Specifically, he was a leader of the FPL, the Farabundo Marti People’s Liberation Forces, which became one of the five main branches of the FMLN. So by some both in El Salvador and out, Sanchez Ceren was seen as “to the left” of Funes. Sanchez Ceren’s running mate for vice president, Oscar Ortiz, is the popular mayor of the city of Santa Tecla, and was a member of the same guerilla group as Sanchez Ceran during the civil war.