Thursday, April 01, 2004

Who needs the PCN, anyway?

UPDATE: The PCN had their first defection to ARENA last night, Dolores Alberto Rivas. Of course, no one's talking about what he was offered in return, but in the past we know that PCN deputies have been bought with considerable sums of money. The key victory for ARENA is that now there is no way the opposition can override any presidential vetos.

The answer: both the FMLN and ARENA, if either of these parties want to get any legislation passed in the next two years.

In the last elections, the PCN --that paragon of corrupt, rightwing populism-- got just under three percent of the vote, which means that it will lose its legal status (along with the CDU and PDC) as a political party. It's not really a problem to re-register, but it means they have to change names and spend time and money gathering some 70,000 signatures. They have the party machinery at the local level to do this, but still it would be so much easier if the Legislative Assembly (in which they are the swing voters--sometimes to the left, oftentimes to the right) just passed a resolution lowering the 3% standards. This has been done before (in 1997, to allow the Democratic Party to continue to exist, for example), but the interesting thing is that it appears that might not happen this time. The PCN is also trying to get an interpretation by the Supreme Court of the electoral law that would go in their favor (and I really can't imagine the basis for this.)

After the elections last March, the FMLN and the PCN entered into a formal legislative alliance, in which the PCN agreed to support a number of progressive social measures and modernization of the assembly in return for FMLN support for the PCN presidency of the Assembly (which should have gone to the FMLN).

Now most public voices in ARENA, including the president-elect Tony Saca and the legislative faction leader Rolando Alvarenga, are making noises that they're not interested in cutting the PCN any slack. As a result, the PCN is already sounding like it's not going to do ARENA any favors in the near future. If the PCN continues to ally with the FMLN --out of spite, we should say, since they have no real principles-- then that will make the new ARENA presidency something less than a picnic.

On the other hand, perhaps the PCN and ARENA are just posturing, trying to see who needs who more, and in the end we'll see if ARENA ends up buying off either the entire faction or a few PCN and PDC deputies in order to get some kind of minimal agenda passed. After all, ARENA only has 28 deputies out of a total 84 seats. The PCN has 15, which combined with ARENA would give them the necessary 43 votes for passing most legislative initiatives. (FMLN has 31 deputies --unless we see a split in the next two years-- while the PDC and CDU each have 5. So even an FMLN/CDU/PDC legislative alliance needs at least two votes from the PCN to get simple legislation passed.)

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