Sánchez Cerén exceeds expectations in first-round Salvadoran vote


With almost every vote  counted tonight, here’s where the Salvadoran election stands:el salvador

In El Salvador, vice president Salvador Sánchez Cerén commanded 48.92% of the vote against the center-right San Salvador mayor Norman Quijano, who has won 38.95% of the vote, with 99.15% of the vote reporting.


Though Sánchez Cerén (pictured above, top) was favored in most polls to the first round of the Salvadoran presidency, he wasn’t expected to come so close to winning the entire presidency — essentially within 1.07% of nabbing the absolute majority he would need to take the presidency in a first-round victory.

That result is much better than Sánchez Cerén’s Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN, Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front) could have hoped for.  It’s not only a first-round win, but it significantly outpaces polling expectations that put Sánchez Cerén equal to or behind Quijano, the candidate of El Salvador’s center-right Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA, Nationalist Republican Alliance).  It’s a vote for enhancing the social welfare programs and the turn to the Alianza Bolivariana (ALBA) in Salvadoran governance.

Though Sánchez Cerén is now favored to win the March 9 runoff against Quijano, but it’s not a certain outcome.  Third-place candidate, former president Elías Antonio ‘Tony’ Saca, who won a somewhat disappointing, 11.44% of the vote, will almost certainly back Quijano and even if he doesn’t, it’s hard to believe his voter base support Sánchez Cerén.

That means that though Sánchez Cerén outpaced Quijano by essentially a 10% margin, the runoff could be very close, and it will become a classic left/right race to determine Salvadoran economic policy, regional alliances and the best strategy to solve violent crime.  Sánchez Cerén, a former guerrilla leader for the once-Marxist FMLN during the Salvador civil war of 1979-92, is further to the left of outgoing president Mauricio Funes, a former journalist and the first FMLN candidate to win election since the end of the Salvadoran civil war. Quijano, however, has been dogged by allegations of corruption and ties to past ARENA officials who are under investigation, including former president Francisco Flores.

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