FMLN publicly assures win in San Salvador, calls on activists to defend victory in the streets
24 hours after the close of voting in El Salvador's March 12 municipal and legislative elections, FMLN general coordinator Milton Mendez spoke at a press conference reaffirming results that show the FMLN prevailing in the key mayoral race of San Salvador. Mendez said that the FMLN had won by 45 votes out of nearly 130,000 counted, and he called on the party's members, the social movement, and the Salvadoran people to defend the important triumph. Shortly thereafter, thousands streamed into San Salvador's Central Plaza where FMLN leaders declared that they would occupy the plaza until the victory was acknowledged by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE.)
According to the TSE's official numbers released at 5:30 yesterday afternoon, FMLN candidate Violeta Menjivar maintained a 91 vote lead with 91% of the votes counted. The TSE was expected to recommence its official vote count at 9:00 am this morning, with only 59 ballot boxes left to be counted, meaning a winner could be declared by the afternoon. Still, delays in the counting process raised concerns that the ARENA party - which holds the presidency of the TSE and controls its infrastructure as the governing party - was improperly utilizing institutional inconsistencies to perpetrate fraud. Mendez was clear in his declarations: if Menjivar is not declared the winner it would be because of outright fraud by the ruling ARENA party. It is possible that the delays will continue and that the winner will not be announced by the TSE until later this week.
It is no coincidence that nearly 70% of Salvadorans surveyed leading up to the elections said that they had little or no faith in the TSE, and its performance over the last two days has been at best inept and inefficient, at worst dubious and corrupt. The TSE server was down most of the day on March 12, and as both mayoral candidates declared victory on Sunday night, the TSE was silent, slow to announce preliminary results. Nor did the TSE properly confront the multiple acts of fraud observed on Election Day. CISPES observers will hold a press conference today to denounce the fraud seen on March 12, as well as illegalities, anomalies, and violence leading up to Election Day. Meanwhile, crowds of people dressed in red remain in the Central Plaza, prepared to celebrate victory or to challenge the results should fraud prove decisive in changing them.