FMLN regains legislative edge after ARENA expels four legislators
On November 7, the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party expelled four of its legislators who broke ranks with the party’s opposition to President Funes’ proposed 2013 budget. Rigoberto Sorto, Adelmo Rivas, Jesús Grande and Sigifredo Ochoa Pérez added their votes those of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party, the Grand Alliance for National Unity (GANA) party, the Christian Democratic Party (PDC), the National Reconciliation (CN) party and the Democratic Change (CD) party to approve the $450 billion budget with 55 votes. Having lost four legislators, ARENA has gone from thirty-three to twenty-nine seats, granting the FMLN a legislative advantage with its thirty-one votes. GANA has eleven seats, the PDC seven, the CN one and the CD one; together with the four newly-independent legislators, the FMLN-GANA-CN-PDC-CN voting bloc is now a single vote shy of achieving the supermajority of fifty-six votes necessary to move anything through the legislature without ARENA.Donato Vaquerano, head of the ARENA legislative bloc, has openly accused the GANA party of buying off the four dissident legislators. “I don’t know how much they’ll get out of the lottery, but these legislators are now part of GANA’s club,” said Vaquerano. The expelled legislators deny the charges, with Ochoa Pérez contending that “I have nothing to do with GANA, and no one can say that my will has been bought.” The loss of four legislators is the second splintering of ARENA in less than three years; following the 2009 presidential electoral loss, more than a dozen legislators defected from the party to form GANA, led by former ARENA President Tony Saca. Signs of further fracture within the party began several weeks ago when Ochoa Pérez and Jesús Grande began voting separately from the ARENA bloc, setting off speculation that those legislators and several others might be maneuvering to leave ARENA. With the FMLN and ARENA gearing up for the 2014 presidential campaign, this new blow to El Salvador’s biggest right-wing party could constitute a setback in its effort to regain the Presidency.