Monday, March 10, 2014

El Salvador Final Presidential Vote - Fraud and Fear

Last night was the final vote for the President of El Salvador.   Last month's vote eliminated the bottom challengers and pushed the country to a second round of voting which culminated last night with the final election.  Campaign coverage on local television and internet was superb as had the previous night and I expected to see a clean easy election as I had in the previous one.  But the night was filled with adrenaline as it appeared ARENA had closed the gap and for brief moments was even ahead in the polls.

The final result in the preliminary ballots ended with FMLN 50.11% and ARENA with 49.89%.  Too close for any candidate to concede. All night long we watched as the political experts debated these results and how close the election turned out to be.  I have my own opinion as to why this happened, but that is for another post.  The real concern is the potential for fraud and violence that came with the results.

Even though the TSE (Tribunal Supremo Electoral) asked everyone for prudence in announcing victory or questioning the ballots; both candidates wanted to claim victory.  The local newspaper and social media began showing a number of miscalculations in the counting process.    A quick summary of how the ballots are counted will help to explain how this works.  Each ballot box is opened at the polling location, each ballot is counted and called out for all to hear.  Poll watchers count the ballots as well and can essentially pass results to their campaign headquarters before it is even released to the public.  Once the votes are counted they are certified and then sent to the TSE who then posts the results on their webpage.  Well according to ARENA, they have counted all of their votes and show they won, to support this they are showing a number of certified voting sheets from the polls that do not match the numbers on the website.  Honest mistake or fraud?  Arena is calling fraud.

Potential Fraud

The scary part is during a speech to rally the support of ARENA Norman Quijano (candidate for president) said that he had been robbed and had called the armed forces.  He stated they were ready to protect democracy and made a call for potential violence to ensure his election as president.  These phrases have shocked many of those around me saying they supported Quijano but are now scared of what he will do.

It is obvious some irregularities have been found and that the country is very divided at this moment.  The next few days will set the stage for either a new president or potential for something worse.

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