Thursday, May 20, 2004

On the "will of the people"

There were many problems with the past elections, but most of them had to do with the excesses in the campaign, not with election day itself. So why, two days before the election, did Schafik Handal along with the other presidential candidates sign a joint declaration promising to "respect the legitimate will of the people expressed in the results of the elections," only now to decide that they were in fact illegitimate and illegal?

ARENA takes out a very measured ad today that, in part, reproduces that document, inviting the FMLN to participate in the swearing in of president-elect Tony Saca.

Meanwhile, the FMLN fraction in the assembly last night debated whether to attend or not, despite the fact that the National Convention "ordered" all deputies not to attend. The debate went until midnight, and 12 of the 31 deputies (those considered "reformistas") voted to attend. But the majority won, so they will not attend.

For those who might be interested, among the dozen reformistas are Arnoldo Bernal, Héctor Córdova, Celina de Monterrosa, Hugo Martínez, Ileana Rogel and Gerson Martínez. Among the more prominent members of the ortodoxos are Walter Durán, Manuel Melgar, Violeta Menjívar, Salvador Arias, and of course Schafik Handal and Salvador Sánchez Cerén.

Meanwhile, the leading reformista, Santa Tecla mayor Oscar Ortiz, continues to believe that there's hope for reform within the FMLN, and says we still have to wait until the general election for new leadership on November 7th. In an interview today, he said that Sunday's convention doesn't mean anything, that they won't be silenced, and that the FMLN cannot continue with caudillos.

The positive side of all this open dissent is precisely that it is open. However, it remains to be seen what the fate will be of those who are now openly critical of the current leadership.


eduardo said...

This is great information. Do you think the FMLN will split and the reformers create their own party?

David said...

That's a good question. I think the only way that Ortiz and company would split from the FMLN and try to create a new party would be if they could take a sizeable chunk of the FMLN base with them--but even then, I doubt it. The FMLN reformistas are cognizant that all previous splinter efforts have been unable to accomplish that. The money and effort it would take to create a new party, without the historic FMLN banner, would be an overwhelming task. Ileana Rogel, for one, has said that she would simply retire from politics before trying to start something new.