Salvadorans will determine on Sunday who will be the country’s next president. Former rebel army FMLN’s candidate Mauricio Funes (pictured on the left) has seen his poll lead shrink away ahead of the vote.
The FMLN’s Mauricio Funes, a former CNN journalist and popular television personality, and right-wing ARENAS’ Rodrigo Avila, an FBI-trained former national Chief of Police, are contesting the 5-year term office.
Opinion polls gave Funes a double-digit lead over
Jeanette Aguilar, Director of the Public Opinion Institute at the Universidad Centroamericana in
In 2004’s presidential election the participation rate was under 58 percent.
“It was expected that ARENA gain ground in the last weeks due to a very aggressive media campaign,” says Aguilar, adding that ARENA’s principal campaign strategy has been to “generate fear in the population, by invoking communism and the FMLN’s violent past.”
A polarised political field
The FMLN, or Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, is a former revolutionary guerrilla movement that fought the US-backed Salvadoran government throughout the 1980s. After the 1992 peace accords the rebel army was demobilized and became the mainstream leftist political party.
The ARENA party, or Nationalist Republican Alliance, was also formed in the early 1980s and is strongly associated to the country’s business elite. The party has controlled the presidency continuously since 1989.
ARENAS’ campaign has blatantly resurrected images and memories of the civil war, but Aguilar feels like a return to the brutal violence of the civil war is no longer possible. “A different institutional and geopolitical context exists,” Aguilar explains. “We now have a Legislative Assembly, where a right-wing coalition still has majority control, and any new economic initiatives or laws necessarily would have to pass through it.”
Legislative and municipal elections in January gave the FMLN more seats than ARENA in
“What we are seeing is a strong polarization in the country,” says Aguilar “It’s not just political but social, and both parties have exacerbated this situation by making everything a black or white issue.”
The smallest country in the
For Aguilar the fundamental challenge for the country is the continuing lack of confidence Salvadorans have toward the political process only 15 years after the transition to democracy was made.
“There are still many voids to fill in our electoral process, but the vote count and voting station observation systems that have been put in place should make this election
Date created : 2009-03-14