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Both candidates claim victory in El Salvador presidential runoff

© AFP

Text by Joseph BAMAT

Latest update : 2014-03-10

Competing presidential candidates in El Salvador’s presidential runoff both claimed victory on Sunday after a surprisingly close electoral contest.

Former leftist guerilla fighter Salvador Sanchez Ceren was just a few thousand votes ahead of his conservative rival, Norman Quijano, with results in from all the polling stations, according to the country’s election authority.

Ceren, the candidate of the ruling Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, won 50.11% of votes to Quijano’s 49.89% support, preliminary results showed.

The razor-thin margin was a surprise, with opinion polls before Sunday’s vote showing Ceren enjoying a comfortable lead.

“I say to my rival, to his party, that my administration will welcome them with open arms, so that together we can build a new country,” Ceren, a one-time commander of El Salvador’s guerilla army, said in front of a crowd of supporters waving the FMLN’s signature red flags.

Meanwhile, Quijano claimed at his own victory rally that his opponents were trying to steal the election, adding that results from his party’s own vote tally revealed he was the winner.

“Our military is aware of the fraud that is being concocted. They cannot go against the will of the people,” Quijano, the candidate of the long-ruling conservative ARENA party, said on his Twitter account.

He called on election observers and the international community to denounce fraud.

The country's electoral authorities have said it will take them at least another day to declare an outright winner.

"This tribunal recommends and orders that no party declare itself winner given such close results," said Supreme Electoral Tribunal president Eugenio Chicas.

El Salvador's new president will be sworn in on 1 June for a five-year term.

Date created : 2014-03-10

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