Elections Update: FMLN leads in polls, ARENA blocks electoral budget, New citizen movement forms, Right-wing newspaper caught manipulating information

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FMLN leads in the polls

The latest CID GALLUP poll shows 32% of those polled plan on voting for current Vice-President Salvador Sánchez Cerén, the presidential candidate for the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), in the February 2014 elections. Norman Quijano, the current Mayor of San Salvador and presidential candidate for the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), is 6 points behind Sánchez Cerén with 26% planning to vote for him. The poll showed 22% plan to vote for ex-president and media mogul Tony Saca, who recently announced his candidacy with the right-wing UNIDAD coalition.

Early last year, polls showed Quijano ahead of Sánchez Cerén; however, since October Sánchez Cerén’s support has been growing as Quijano’s falls. Now, with Saca in the race, FMLN spokesperson Roberto Lorenzana commented, “a third competitor has appeared, still far behind, but without a doubt he is significantly draining votes from the ARENA party.”

ARENA blocking approval of electoral budget

On Saturday, March 16, on his weekly radio program, President Mauricio Funes pleaded with the ARENA legislative group to vote to approve the 2014 presidential elections budget “so that we have elections, so the electoral calendar does not fall behind.”

All five other parties in the Legislative Assembly are in agreement to approve the electoral budget and financing, which the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) – the entity responsible for conducting Salvadoran elections – presented two months ago. But ARENA has blocked the budget’s approval, which requires a 2/3 majority. TSE President Eugenio Chicas says the delay is jeopardizing preparations for the 2014 elections, particularly the implementation of absentee voting for Salvadorans abroad and residential voting, a new system that brings voting centers closer to the electorate’s homes.

According to FMLN legislator Lorena Peña, “The situation of the elections is very delicate, because ARENA is playing with the electoral process, they are scared of the electoral process. And that’s why they want to entangle its financing.”

Citizen movement calls for five more years of social transformation

A citizen movement made up of Salvadoran professionals calling themselves “Citizen Movement ‘Five More’” announced its formation in San Salvador on March 13. Many of the members are leaders of human rights and social justice organizations but are participating in the movement as individual citizens, not in representation of their organizations. Declaring itself non-partisan, “Five More” supports the transformative social programs ushered in by the administration of Mauricio Funes, the first progressive president of El Salvador, and will organize to ensure the February 2014 elections bring about a government that will spend five more years (the length of a presidential term) committed to social transformation.

María Silvia Guillén, a human rights lawyer and member of the movement, referred to the twenty years during which ARENA governed prior to Funes’ election, saying “the population should remember that the previous governments are who privatized the State’s assets, carried out dollarization and other cases of corruption.” She went on to say it is necessary to educate the population, so as not to return to those types of governments. The movement will begin analyzing the proposals of the three candidates for the presidency in 2014, and in August of this year will present their findings and political position.

Right-wing newspaper manipulates information for electoral purposes and gets caught

On March 5, the Diario de Hoy published an article that claimed the regional representative of the International Monetary Fund (IMF), Fernando Delgado, had made declarations corroborating reports by the National Association of Private Enterprise (ANEP), which represents El Salvador’s economic elite, and the Salvadoran Foundation for Economic and Social Development (FUSADES), a right-wing think tank founded with USAID money. According to the newspaper, which has wide national circulation and is owned by a member of the ARENA party, Delgado had “coincided almost exactly with what ANEP, FUSADES, political analysts, and numerous organizations have been saying: in less than four years…the lack of sensible economic policies, populism and the missteps of ‘social programs’ have situated the country in the lowest position of the region.”

Several days later, the IMF representative released a public statement saying that his declarations were “taken out of context and deformed,” and that at no time had he corroborated any report nor made any evaluations of Salvadoran authorities. Delgado went on to say that the slow growth of the Salvadoran economy is “in spite of great efforts by the authorities” and primarily a result of how closely the Salvadoran economy is linked to the US economy, investors pulling out money when a leftist party won the presidency in 2009 and the many natural disasters that have occurred in El Salvador recently.

The Diario de Hoy’s misrepresentation of facts is not an isolated incident. According to President Funes, the paper “has an line of opposition, of systematic opposition to this government” and that it “also forms part of the communications system of the ARENA party and big business that is supporting the ARENA party for the next elections.”

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