In what was considered a peaceful election, the El Salvadoran people have come out in full force. With an estimated 44% voter turnout the polls opened early on Sunday morning and went until 5 pm. The final results show neither candidate earned the required 50% + 1% needed to take the presidency and so the top two candidates will move to second election in March.
As you can see above, FMLN came in with 48.92% giving a 10 point lead on ARENA. This data holds true to the national polls that were done over the past two months and shows the country is leaning heavily towards FMLN. Tony Saca, the real loser in this first round, now has the deciding power to endorse a candidate and push a large portion of his votes to one candidate or the other.
More importantly for this country was the dramatic changes in how the elections were controlled through media and technology. The results were being tallied in real time on the election website and there was live coverage of polling locations and candid interview with top party officials. Though it was no Tim Russert, it was amazing to see the process unfold as this country pushed for democracy. A promise to have results up by 10 pm held true and brought a strong sense of legitimacy to the election and voting process. I was impressed to see the country move towards these improvements to get information to the people.
The uphill battle of winning 10% more will be difficult for ARENA, looking over all the 15 departments (aka states) ARENA only wins one - Cabañas. This isn't good news for Quijano because this department is the smallest populated and one of the most impoverished. Not to mention it is in one of the highest, coldest areas of the country. Makes you wonder if they were the only ones who didn't know 100% what was going on. ARENA will need to work no stop to win UNIDAD votes and turn this election, with FMLN winning 14 out 15 Departments many with a 10 point margin, this election is all but over before it starts.