Tuesday, March 09, 2004

Background reading on the Salvadoran elections

I mentioned earlier that we can expect of problems on election day, which is always the case, although they've never been serious enough in the postwar period to call into question the legitimacy of the elections. This one should be no different, especially given that people will be voting for the first time ever with their new Single Identity Cards (DUI). While the DUI is much more reliable and transparent (pictures on laminated cards, to be compared with an electoral registry with photos of the voter as well!), this will nevertheless be the first time they will have been used.

To brush up on potential election day foibles, many of which are not related to the document used to vote, one surprisingly objective and well-documented report about irregularities in the March 2003 elections was published by the International Observation Mission of the Center for Exchange and Solidarity (CIS). The report is not afraid to document FMLN violations of electoral laws--such as improper use of propaganda, distribution of food (i.e., vote-buying), etc. on election day--alongside the numerous abuses by all the other parties.

If you want even more details, as well as a plethora of data and information on both the 2003 and 2004 elections, you could read the reports of the Consortium of Civic Education NGOs (COCIVICA) at their website. I haven't ploughed through them myself, but COCIVICA has been working on electoral issues for eleven years now (the only nongovernmental organization in El Salvador with that kind of track record), and know what they're talking about. They're a coalition of five NGOs ranging from center to left.

And you'll definitely want to click on the websites of the two principal candidates, Tony Saca (ARENA) and Schafick Handal (FMLN). Can't find a site for Hector Silva anywhere. (Later, I found out that he does have one. I had to ask around for that one.)

If you harbor any skepticism whatsoever that press coverage has been skewed toward the two major parties (as is this blog), with one party in particular getting more favorable coverage, just click on the logos of the four parties in contention at the Diario de Hoy site. Then compare the number of articles listed for each party. From the titles you'll get a general sense of the tone. Draw your own conclusions.

Nevertheless, there is justice. At all three sites, not one provides the proper website address for Tony Saca--all noting "tonysaca.org" instead of "tonysaca.com." For those of us who know the difference between an "org" and a "com", well, the address should be obvious. So you read it here first, folks.

By the way, none of the parties' sites allows for online donations--at this time....

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