Electoral Update: Registration Closes on Absentee Voting Abroad, Possible Extension Proposed

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On Monday, August 5, registration closed for absentee voters abroad with some 10,500 Salvadorans inscribed. While the figure falls far short of the initially-projected 200,000, Vice President and presidential candidate for the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party praised the program’s advances: “This is a process that is beginning, and perhaps it wasn’t done with adequate time, but participation will continue growing; for the first time our Salvadoran brothers’ right to vote is being recognized.”

The absentee voting program, an FMLN initiative proposed to guarantee all Salvadorans’ constitutional right of suffrage regardless of their residence, was finally approved in the National Legislative Assembly in January 2013 after months of stalling from right-wing parties. Indeed, much of the critical delays in the program’s implementation were forced by the oppositional efforts of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party, which then spent months blocking the electoral budget's approval in the Legislative Assembly.

In the face of such delays, Eugenio Chicas, President of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) that oversees all electoral functions, announced that the TSE is considering sending a proposal to the Legislative Assembly that would extend registration through September 22nd. In the meantime, with the February 2014 presidential elections on the horizon, right-wing politicians and conservative-dominated media outlets are taking the opportunity to criticize the FMLN government for the program’s deficiencies. “The parties that didn’t want to vote for [the program] are the same ones who now criticize the minimal scope of absentee voting, when they themselves delayed the process,” said Chicas.

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