FMLN Up in the Polls, ARENA Denounced for Manipulating Voting Process


With less than three weeks to go before the municipal and legislative elections of 2006 the atmosphere in El Salvador is one of both tension and enthusiasm for the arrival of voting day. Since the massive outpouring of both morning and support for FMLN around Schafik's funeral, many Salvadorans believe the polls that put the FMLN slightly ahead of ARENA actually underestimate the support people will give the FMLN on voting day. The most recent poll showed Violeta Menjivar, the FMLN candidate for mayor of San Salvador, poised to become to first woman mayor of the city.

The major support for the FMLN has the right wing worried and on the offensive. ARENA, and particularly President Saca as the party's main spokesman, has increased the verbal offensive, saying that the FMLN is behind any and every protest, saying the FMLN is looking to "de-stabilize" the country. He and other campaign leaders are continuing to lead a fear campaign, accusing the FMLN of things like organizing prisoners and gang members into their campaign.

There is also evidence that ARENA is preparing fraud for voting day by manipulating the voting lists. Already the party helped thousands of voters "migrate" - changing addresses and therefore voting locations - so as to influence key races. Then, last week FMLN activists in towns along the Honduran border found voter lists that included Hondurans on them as registered voters. The FMLN submitted a formal denouncement of these and other problems with the voting process to the Organization of American States last week.

Meanwhile, the FMLN has continued its "victory campaign" around the country. Although the FMLN does not have the financial resources or media-mogul friends that allow ARENA to bombard El Salvador with television commercials, the FMLN has been out in the streets in municipalities around the country. Candidates and party activists have been holding informal public meetings, talking about people's concerns and the FMLN's proposals for the country.

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