Press release: Likely Loser in Salvadoran Presidential Election Seeks to Nullify Vote

Press Release

For immediate release: Press contact in El Salvador: Lisa Fuller, +503 7196-9100

Likely Loser in Salvadoran Presidential Election Seeks to Nullify Vote

Oversight Board Moves Ahead with Final Count

Winner Expected to be Announced by Friday

As the Salvadoran National Electoral Authority (TSE) began the final official vote count in Sunday’s hotly contested presidential election, members of the party which lost in the preliminary count demanded measures that would delay and ultimately nullify the process as a whole. Charging the TSE with fraud, the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA in Spanish) walked out of the final vote count on Tuesday afternoon. Their actions followed inflammatory remarks issued by their candidate, Norman Quijano, on Sunday night, in which he declared victory, implored the party faithful to “prepare for war” and called upon the Salvadoran army to intervene in the nation’s politics, which is expressly forbidden in the Salvadoran constitution. This resulted in a tense situation for a country still recovering from the ravages of a bloody civil war that ended in 1992. “It seems clear that ARENA’s actions are intended to subvert the process since they haven’t presented any evidence of fraud and they are demanding a recount before the first count is even over,” says Alexis Stoumbelis, Executive Director of CISPES. She added, “We have observed every election since the war ended, and this one is far and away the most transparent and fair.” The preliminary results give the victory to Salvador Sanchez Ceren of the ruling Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN in Spanish), who eked out a narrow 6,600 vote victory. Ceren’s 1,494,144 votes (preliminary results) is the highest ever received by a presidential candidate in the nation’s history. The record voter turnout helped ARENA, who suffered a major defeat in the election’s first round; however, calls from the party to its leadership to defend their vote have resulted in only small protests, ranging from several hundred to a few thousand people. Eugenio Chicas, president of the TSE, rejected ARENA’s demands for a vote-by-vote recount, and affirmed that the process would continue in accordance with the nation’s electoral code and constitution. He invited ARENA representatives to rejoin the process and extended an offer for the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Human Rights Ombudsman to mediate the dispute. ARENA representatives are expected to rejoin the count Wednesday morning. Reports from thousands of national and international observers contradicted ARENA’s claims of fraud and instead congratulated Salvadoran voters and electoral authorities for conducting a transparent and efficient process. The United Nations, the OAS, and the U.S. State Department all echoed observers’ assessment of the elections and endorsed the TSE process already underway. Final certification of the results is expected late Thursday or Friday. Members of CISPES’s electoral observer delegation are still in country and are available for interviews. Contact Lisa Fuller at [email protected] or +503 7196-9100.

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