El Salvador: Presidential campaign enters final stretch


Presidential campaign enters final stretch; Electoral authorities prepare for upcoming election; 2013 homicide rate is the lowest in 10 years


Presidential campaigns enter final stretch

With less than a month until the presidential elections, electoral authorities have stepped up the necessary preparations for Election Day on 2 February, while political propaganda by all political parties has intensified.

Polls show that the election will be a close call between the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional – FMLN) and the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (Alianza Republicana Nacionalista – ARENA).

Initial polls showed ARENA’s presidential candidate, Norman Quijano, with a comfortable lead in voting preferences. Numerous incidents within the party such as dissent from several legislators and key figures such as ARENA founder Ernesto Panamá; and campaign mishaps (too much aggressive confrontation and too few innovative proposals, according to voters) were instrumental in the party losing its advantage.

The FMLN’s presidential ticket, headed by current vice-president Salvador Sánchez Cerén, is expected to attract the majority of the votes in comparison to the opposition, but not to garner more than the 50% needed to avoid a runoff election.

Decisive to the final outcome will therefore be the participation of the Unity Movement coalition (Movimiento Unidad) headed by former Salvadoran president with ARENA, Elías Antonio Saca. Although they started off strong, Saca’s numbers have fallen in recent polls, with voters swinging to the FMLN. In the homestretch, both ARENA and the FMLN are expected to devote most of their efforts to garnering the remaining Saca votes and courting other undecided voters.

Electoral authorities prepare for upcoming election

According to the head of El Salvador’s national electoral agency (Tribunal Supremo Electoral  – TSE), Eugenio Chicas, the TSE will begin  a consultation in all of the country’s 262 municipalities, in which citizens are to confirm in which voting station they should cast their vote in the upcoming presidential election.

A number of tools will be available for citizens to verify their voting stations, including smartphone applications, telephone hotlines, and field staff spread nationwide. Chicas added that those with access to the Internet should consult the TSE’s webpage to verify where the voting stations are located.

During the 2009 presidential elections, 461 voting stations were set up. For the 2014 elections, a total of 1,593 stations will be up and running.

In addition, the TSE is currently evaluating the voting stations that are in the eastern part of the country near the Chaparrastique volcano that erupted on 29 December. If needed, the 47 voting stations around the volcano will be relocated.

2013 homicide rate is the lowest in 10 years

Reports by El Salvador’s National Civil Police (Policía Nacional Civil – PNC) show that the year 2013 had the fewest homicides of any year in the past 10 years, with 2,490 reported homicides. This is the lowest number of yearly homicides since 2003, when 2,195 homicides were registered.

Homicide rates, however, are still excessively high. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), homicide rates greater than 10 per 100,000 inhabitants are considered epidemics. El Salvador’s homicide rate in 2013 was 43 per 100,000.

Compared to 2012, the year in which the gang truce was implemented, in 2013 homicides saw a slight decline from 2,594 to 2,490. Prior the truce in 2011, recorded homicides numbered 4,362 (homicide rate of 70 per 100,000). Last year’s decline has been attributed to the March 2012 gang truce signed by leaders of the two main gangs, MS-13 and Barrio 18.

On a regional level, El Salvador continues to be one of the countries with the highest homicide rate, together with Honduras, Guatemala, and Belize. Honduras continues to be the most violent country in Central America and the world in terms of homicides (83 per 100,000).