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Opposition Parties Neck and Neck in Salvadoran Elections

March 17, 2006

SAN SALVADOR – Less than half a percentage point separated the long-governing conservatives from their main challenger, the leftist FMLN, in Sunday’s legislative elections, during which 14 voters were arrested for electoral law violations.

The outcome of the San Salvador mayoral race, the biggest municipal prize in Sunday’s balloting, remained too close to call at press time.

With nearly 63% of ballots counted, the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) had 39.1% of the vote nationwide, slightly behind the former revolutionary Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), which had 39.4%.

President Tony Saca, who also heads ARENA, claimed victory for his conservative group that has governed since 1989. He predicted ARENA would end up with between 32 and 34 seats in the unicameral 84-seat legislature, an increase of between five and seven seats.

The FMLN, which as a guerrilla army waged a 12-year revolution that ended with 1992 peace accords, said it was leading in races for 33 seats. That would be a slight increase from the 31 it won in the previous congressional elections three years ago, though several of those lawmakers defected from the party since that contest.

What is clear from Sunday’s vote is that no party would have an outright majority in Congress.

Minority parties also picked up some important votes, with the center-right PCN taking nearly 12% of the ballots, the centrist Christian Democrats garnering nearly 7% and the center-leftist Democratic Change taking 3.2%.

In the capital, with just under 58 percent counted on Monday,ARENA was leading with 45.25% of the vote to the FMLN’s 44.85%. Both the rightist candidate for mayor, Rodrigo Samayoa, and the FMLN standard bearer, Violeta Menjivar, claimed victory.

National Police said that 14 people were arrested during election day for “electoral fraud,” for bringing weapons into polling places, or for public disorder.

 

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