Campaign Updates Part 2: Nationalist Republican Alliance
This is the 2nd blog entry in a 4-part series of campaign updates on the five tickets running in the February 2, 2014, presidential elections in El Salvador. Election Day is still eight and a half months away, and the four-month campaign period when candidates can officially ask the population to vote for them doesn’t begin until September 24th. But the five different parties that have announced they will participate in the 2014 elections are already reaching out to the population through appearances in communities, popular consultation processes to develop their campaign platforms and with TV, radio and newspaper appearances.
Part 2: Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party
When right wing ARENA party presidential candidate Norman Quijano named someone from outside the party as his vice-presidential candidate –René Portillo Cuadra, president of the private Technological University – in February, it failed to cause the splash needed to turn around his lagging poll numbers
ARENA, suffering major internal divisions that have resulted in five legislators leaving the party in the past year, experienced a shake-up of the party’s leadership that gave people linked to the elite economic consortium, the Poma Group, major control and influence over the party. The new leadership hired former president Francisco Flores to manage the campaign of their presidential candidate, who has been falling in popularity since last October.
Flores has overseen a shift in the campaign, with Quijano and the ARENA legislative group more actively attacking the Funes administration and the FMLN. Quijano’s most recent billboards and commercials criticize the government’s security policy, despite it having reduced the country’s murder rate by more than half, with slogans like “For criminals, there is no truce.” ARENA legislators also held up signs referring to the government’s supposed shortcomings and failures during President Funes’ annual State of the Union-style address to the Legislative Assembly. Their attacks are also being launched against Tony Saca, former president of the country and of the ARENA party and current UNIDAD candidate.
Recently, digital news sources reported that the municipality of San Salvador, of which Quijano is Mayor, has spent more than $1 million over the past four months in publicity, prompting accusations that Quijano is using public funds for his campaign. Aside from the municipally funded publicity, Quijano has been touring the country, visiting towns for what his campaign manager says is a citizen consultation process, though the actual events seem to have a very minimal consultative element.
Internal divisions and power struggles continue to plague Quijano’s campaign. Most recently, ARENA’s representative in the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), Walter Araujo, declared himself independent following a drawn-out and public confrontation with Quijano and Flores.