Saturday, March 13, 2004

"Vamos a la Primera!"

This is ARENA's latest slogan (out for a while now), urging a massive turnout on election day so that Tony Saca can win in the first round. Clearly ARENA feels like a first-round win, even by a hair, is more of a victory than having to go into a second-round. There have been two presidential elections since the peace accords, in 1994 and 1999. In the first, ARENA and the FMLN went to a second round, while in 1999 ARENA won handily on the first round, with a little over 51% of the vote; the FMLN got about 29%.

Earlier I'd mentioned how things may not look so pretty if ARENA wins by, say, 500 votes on March 21st, given the heated rhetoric that has characterized this campaign. Adding to the sense of uncertainty, the head of the computer section at the TSE reportedly resigned yesterday after a week of controversy following an experimental run-through of the electoral count at the TSE (Supreme Electoral Tribunal), in which the results were tampered with by a member of the Junta de Vigilancia Electoral (a body on which all political parties are represented, and which is supposed to oversee the funcioning of the elections). El Faro reported Sunday morning one TSE magistrate in saying that, in fact, it had all been a misunderstanding, and that the computer técnico would continue in his post.

The good news is that the OAS--rather belatedly, and only a couple dozen strong--will be monitoring this election, and they've already gotten involved in reviewing this computer problem. If they can stay on top of things, their word will count should anything be disputed. There are also several hundred observers from the CIS and the Share Foundation, and COCIVICA is also coordinating a set of observers. While these groups won't necessarily have any political clout, the presence of international observers throughout the country should have an important dissuasive effect against the exercise of any egregious electoral irregularities.

In addition, the opposition parties (the FMLN, CDU-PDC and PCN) were smart enough to get together and garner most of the presidencies of the Juntas Municipales Electorales and Juntas Departamentales Electorales. From these positions, one would think that the opposition will be in a good spot to discover any electoral day shenanigans fairly rapidly.

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