International Observer Mission Press Release
MARCH 14, 2006
We represent a mission of 36 observers from the United Status, Spain, Switzerland, and Germany which includes students and professionals. We have come to El Salvador to witness the transparency in the electoral process, which is an element of the democratization as established by the 1992 Peace Accords. For the last few months we have followed very closely the social and political events in El Salvador. Some of us have participated in observing election here in the past. In this statement we will be sharing some of our observation from prior, during, and after the legislative and municipal election that took place on March 12, 2006.
Since long before the day of elections, the electoral registry has been characterized by irregularities.? In some municipalities the registry grew disproportionately in comparison with the population growth. There was massive migration between municipalities and documented cases of minors, deceased, and foreigners included in the registry. Besides these problems, it is also known that the National Registry of Naturalized People (RNPN) where the electoral registry comes from is directed by a known activist from ARENA (the rightwing party). The institution in charge of distributing the voter identification card – the Unique Identification Document or “DUI” – is a private corporation that lacks public oversight.
In addition to these irregularities, we add the fact that October of last year, the Assembly approved a reform to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) which changed the decision making power from a unanimous majority to a simple majority, thus consolidating the power of the Right within the TSE. Furthermore, the TSE is charged with both coordinating and judging the electoral process, and in its role as jury it has not enforced compliance with the Electoral Code like in the case of electoral violence and the use of state funds in the campaign. Likewise, governmental authorities, including Saca were involved in ARENA’s electoral campaign which is unconstitutional.
During the elections we were present in voting centers in San Salvador, Sonsonate, Mejicanos, Chalchuapa, and El Paisnal from 6:00 a.m. until 9:00 p.m. Throughout the day we observed structural problems with voting. The voting centers opened late and sometimes closed early; the members of the Vote Reception Boards (JRV) had difficulties in setting up and were confused about their responsibilities and the voting process; the marker that is used to prove that a person has voted didn’t work; there was not sufficient transportation available to and from voting centers; and many voting centers lacked adequate infrastructure to accommodate the JRVs. We also observed violations to the Electoral Code. The vote was not secret; many JRVs had more than one ARENA representative and in some occasions the TSE employees maintained constant communication with ARENA representatives; the electoral campaign continued within the voting centers; people were missing from the registry list; and people with questionable DUIs were permitted to vote; often times the numbers on the official election documents were filled out hurriedly; and a lot of official election documents were filled out and signed before the closing of the center. In addition, the buying of votes was reported to us; buses with Hondurans and Guatemalans entered the country to vote; public employees were forced to oversee voting boxes for the official party and other workers were prevented from voting, for example sweatshop workers and members of the PNC. These reports need to be investigated.
Once the final count was done, TSE employees didn’t have all the voting center official election documents to be sent to the CNPRE. The problem with the official election documents, in addition to the registry irregularities, the reforms made to the TSE, the violations of the electoral code as observed on the day of elections, and the lack of access to the TSE information have increased ARENA’s power in elections. ARENA now has the power to influence over the final election results, especially in a close run such as that of the capital city of San Salvador. The fact that Saca has declared Rodrigo Samayoa as the winner seriously undermines the little institutionality that still exists in El Salvador.
In conclusion, we recommend that all the political parties have access to the final scrutiny taking place by the TSE in the next few days. The Legislative Assembly should not approve reforms to the TSE like those of the recent past. We recommend that the political parties have access to the electoral registry and that they be made public. Furthermore, there should be transparency in regards to the financing of the political parties’ electoral campaigns.? The TSE should comply with the laws that prohibit the use of state funds for electoral campaigns and should investigate the cases of electoral violence. Also, in order to facilitate the access to voting centers, the residential voting practice should be expanded to other municipalities. Finally, the secrecy of the vote should be guaranteed, and the TSE should have a better, more transparent way to report elections results.