Widgets Magazine
Widgets Magazine
Widgets Magazine


id: 187967

date: 1/20/2009 22:03

refid: 09SANSALVADOR60

origin: Embassy San Salvador

classification: CONFIDENTIAL






DE RUEHSN #0060/01 0202203


P 202203Z JAN 09






----------------- header ends ----------------






E.O. 12958: DECL: 01/20/2019






     B. SAN SALVADOR 00045


Classified By: Charge d'Affaires, for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)


1. Summary:  While (conservative, pro-U.S.) ARENA won the

Sunday's headline race for San Salvador city hall, taking it

from the FMLN after 12 years, it was otherwise a good day for

the (left-wing) FMLN.  Based on current returns (75 percent)

that may fluctuate significantly before final numbers are in,

the FMLN increased its seats in the Assembly from 32 to 35.

ARENA dropped from 34 to 32.  Current figures show the

(right-wing) PCN, current ARENA partner, with 11, the

(center-right, pro-U.S.) PDC 5, and (left-wing) CD (allied

with FMLN) with 1.  (center-left) FDR received no deputies.

If this holds, the PCN will be able to form a majority in the

84-seat assembly by allying with either ARENA or the FMLN.

The PCN has been allied with ARENA in the outgoing Assembly

but has been holding talks with the FMLN.  Aside from the San

Salvador result, the FMLN made substantial municipal gains.

Current returns give ARENA between 108 and 118

municipalities, down from 147, 77 to 86 for the FMLN (up from

59), 28 to 35 for the PCN (down from 39), and 9 for the PDC

(down from 14).  ARENA's victory in San Salvador provides a

much needed boost to its presidential candidate, but the

temporary lift will not be sufficient in and of itself.

Isolated incidents aside, polling day was quiet.  Embassy

carried out a robust program of election observations.  End




Legislative Results



2. (C) Returns from the legislative elections have been

swinging wildly as the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE)

continues to tally results.  This is mainly due to the nature

of the system, in which a small number of votes generally

decides the final seat in a given department (Ref A).  As

there are 14 departments, there are at least that many seats

that will be uncertain until the final vote counts are in.

That said, the current breakdown, with 75.25 percent of votes

in, shows the FMLN in the lead with 35 seats (an increase of

three) and ARENA close behind with 32 (a decrease of two).

As expected, neither will approach a majority (43 seats).  If

the numbers hold, the PCN (currently allied with ARENA in the

Assembly) would have 11 seats (up from 9), the PDC would hold

5, CD (in alliance with the FMLN) would hold a single seat,

and the FDR would not have any.  (Note: The PCN's totals

illustrate the rapidly fluctuating election returns.  The

initial numbers that the media reported on Election Night

said that the PCN would only win three legislative seats, and

two days later, that number had jumped to 11.  End Note.)

With these figures, the PCN would be in a powerful bargaining

position, with the ability to form a majority with either the

FMLN or ARENA.  An FMLN source told us they have been

negotiating with the PCN for some time (Ref A).



Municipal Results



3. (U) There were some surprises in the municipal races.  In

San Salvador, incumbent FMLN mayor Violeta Menjivar, who had

been at least five points ahead in the polling in the weeks

leading up to the elections, lost to ARENA challenger Norman

Quijano.  With 77 percent of the votes confirmed, Quijano

held a 50 to 47 percent edge, which was enough for Menjivar

to concede defeat on January 19.  The FMLN had been in

control of San Salvador since 1997, but Quijano ran a

tireless campaign, and there had been widespread

dissatisfaction with the job done by Menjivar.


4. (U) Despite the significant setback in San Salvador, the

FMLN made substantial gains overall in municipal races.  They

took the hotly-contested race in Santa Ana, deposing the

incumbent PDC mayor by an ample margin.  Recent polling had

suggested a three-way deadlock in that race.  Overall,

(conservative news daily) La Prensa Grafica is reporting that

ARENA has 108 municipal wins, which would be down nearly 40

from its previous 147.  (Note: (Conservative daily) El Diario

de Hoy is reporting 118 for ARENA.  As with the legislative

elections, there are many races to be finalized. End Note.)

La Prensa Grafica is reporting 86 municipal wins for the FMLN

(up from 59), 28 for the PCN (down from 39), and 9 for the

PDC (down from 14).  El Diario de Hoy is reporting 77 for the

FMLN, 35 for the PCN, and 9 for the PDC.



Polling Atmospherics



5. (C) Voter turnout was strong.  La Prensa Grafica reports

that 57 percent of eligible voters cast ballots January 18,

up from 54 percent in 2006.  Voting proceeded largely without

incident, though observers reported many cases of late poll

openings.  OAS observers reported an average opening time of

7:39 (39 minutes late).  During the day, local polling

officials closed four polling sites due to disputes.  Three

of the four were later reopened.  The other, San Isidro, in

the department of Cabanas, was closed for the day following

claims that Hondurans were being bused in and paid USD28 each

to vote.  Emboff observers were present as these rumors

spread, polls were closed and failed to reopen in San Isidro.

 Attorney General Felix Garrid Safie told us in the late

afternoon January 18 that the dispute originated because of

the small-town atmosphere at the polling station.  Safie said

that when buses full of voters arrived that some people did

not know, those people assumed that the new arrivals were not

from their municipality, and fraud must be in play.  Safie

said that the disputed voters were all on voter rolls and had

valid DUIs (Unique Identity Documents) with them.  The TSE

opted to suspend voting for the day after realizing that

polling station officials had departed, and announced late

Monday that voting would resume in San Isidro January 25.

(Note: These votes have the potential to affect one Assembly

seat in the Cabanas Department.)


6. (U) Aside from the closed polls, there were minimal

irregularities.  At the polling sites, there were occasional

reports of inconsistent ID checks, poorly placed voter rolls,

officials not checking for ink or not staining voters'

thumbs, and voters being turned away due to damaged DUIs.  In

some cases, polling workers arrived wearing t-shirts with

party logos and candidate names, which delayed poll openings.

 There was no evidence of large-scale fraud, and observers

were consistently satisfied with the process.


7. (SBU) The TSE's organization at the polling stations was

largely successful, but its post-election reporting has been

abysmal.  The TSE continues to set self-imposed deadlines for

releasing election results, and then fails to meet them.  As

of 12:00 PM January 20, there are still no definitive results

from the TSE.  The organization's web site, the theoretical

chief public source of election data, has been inaccessible

since polls closed and many Salvadoran media sites have been

available only intermittently.



Observer Missions



8. (SBU) The Embassy fielded fifteen teams of observers to

all fourteen Departments of El Salvador, with 35 observers in

total.  In conjunction with DS, Embassy was able to use

GPS-enabled mobile phones to monitor the movements of all

teams (Ref B), and there were no security incidents.  The OAS

fielded 82 international observers from nineteen countries

and judged that the elections ran smoothly with just a few

incidents as noted above.  The EU election monitoring mission

of approximately 40 monitors called the elections "normal."

Several U.S.-based NGOs fielded observer teams, including the

Center for Exchange and Solidarity (CIS) and the Committee in

Solidarity with the People of El Salvador (CISPES).  The

Ombudsman for Human Rights (PDDH), the government's human

rights watchdog, called the elections successful.  The

NDI-supported (and USAID-funded) domestic observation effort

organized by San Salvador's Central American University

public opinion unit (IUDOP) fielded around 2,000 domestic

observers, largely university students, and planned to do a

"quick count" vote tally.  Embassy teams viewed IUDOP

observers throughout the country.  While the observer effort

successfully reported on late polling station openings and

other minor irregularities, IUDOP has been silent since

Sunday evening with no data yet to corroborate official vote







9. (C) ARENA's victory in the San Salvador municipal race is

an important morale boost for the party that gives its

presidential candidate, Rodrigo Avila, an opportunity to

invigorate his campaign.  But the boost from the San Salvador

victory will not be sufficient in and of itself ) ARENA and

Avila have to ensure ARENA supporters set aside the

resentment that lingers from the candidate-selection process.

 Even if Avila does everything right, he faces a daunting

challenge in trying to close FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes'

double-digit lead in opinion polls.


10. (C) Comment continued: The San Salvador municipal result

was an exception in a day of strong performance by FMLN


candidates across the country.  The party is poised to hold a

plurality of seats in the Legislative Assembly, but will fall

short of a controlling majority.  As votes are still being

tallied, the composition of the Assembly is still in play,

but broadly speaking, the FMLN made significant gains, ARENA

fell back, and control of the Assembly will depend on the

PCN, PDC, or both.  The bidding war (both literally and

figuratively) for the PCN's support will be fierce,

especially if the PCN alone is in a position to decide

whether the FMLN or ARENA controls the Assembly.  If ARENA

and the PCN together can no longer reach the 43-vote

threshold to control the Assembly, ARENA is faced with the

unpleasant prospect of assembling and managing a difficult

coalition of both the PCN (a party already flirting with the

FMLN) and the PDC.  The FMLN, on the other hand, can

concentrate its efforts on the PCN, simplifying both initial

negotiations and maintenance of that alliance going forward.

Much depends on the final distribution of seats in the

Legislative Assembly, the determination of which may still be

days away.



=======================CABLE ENDS============================