El Salvador results update

Beware the misleading presentation of preliminary results!

El Sal 2009(Diputados) 75pct

Yesterday I noted that the FMLN appeared to have won only 44% of seats on nearly 50% of the votes. I based this on the web page captured above. From the first few lines of the report–Departamento: TOTALES NACIONALES and Municipio: REPUBLICA DE EL SALVADOR–one might conclude that the page was reporting national results. Not so fast!

If one looks at the line at the bottom (which obviously I did not) one might note that the TOTAL VOTOS VALIDOS are far short of the national total reported at the top. Indeed, the votes totals by party listed here are San Salvador only.

I take small–very small–comfort from knowing that others made the same error I did. Various news accounts had said the FMLN had won about half the vote nationally, and so did a blog I often read and consider reliable.
I thank Heather B. for pointing this out. Evidently the FMLN actually has around 43% of the national votes.

Heather also informs me that a contact says the seats totals are different from previous reports:

    FMLN 35
    ARENA 32
    Partido de Conciliación Nacional   11
    Partido Demócrata Cristiano 5
    Cambio Democrático 1

If these various numbers are correct, the FMLN is still under-represented (which was the main theme of yesterday’s report here) and, in terms of seats won, the party has been harmed even more by the nonconcurrent elections (a theme I wrote about on Sunday), given that the FMLN presidential candidate is still expected to approach or exceed 50% in the March election. But the FMLN did not do as well in votes, or wind up as seriously under-represented, in Sunday’s election as I previously believed.

(Even a Salvadoran newspaper had the preliminary seat totals of the PCN way off, reporting 4. If it won 11, it would be more in keeping with its usual totals, and would certainly continue its tendency to be over-represented by the simple-quota, largest-remainders system.)

These revised numbers would also mean a significant change in the political calculus for an eventual FMLN presidency. No longer would the PDC have enough votes in congress to get the FMLN over half the seats, if it chose to bargain with the president and his party. The FMLN will need the PCN, which would be interesting: this is the party that has its roots in the rural support network of the old pre-1979 regime that the FMLN organized to overthrow (and that the PDC probably defeated electorally at the head of a center-left coalition in 1972). The PCN has worked in the legislature with the FMLN before–for instance, on as agrarian-debt relief bill that passed, but was vetoed by the ARENA president. So they presumably can work together again. (I think a broad right-wing opposition majority coalition and thus divided government, assuming the FMLN indeed has the presidency, would be very unlikely.)

I still am unable to get the electoral commission website to load.

I have uprooted yesterday’s planting. I will re-plant an analysis of votes-seats relationships once results are more clear.

5 thoughts on “El Salvador results update

  1. Matthew,

    If the FMLN scored only 43% of national votes, I think they’re in deep trouble. Funes and the FMLN’s strategy has been to try to win the March elections on the first round, and I’m not sure that they can get the 7% more votes needed to do that.

    If they go into a run-off, the PDC and PCN are not likely at all to align with the FMLN, but rather with ARENA. That’s very clear already with the PCN, whose evangelical presidential candidate has warmed up to ARENA. And the PDC’s candidate (and this party has aligned with ARENA more frequently than not in recent years) is led by the former FMLN mayor of San Salvador — for whom there is no love lost with the FMLN.

    This is NOT where the FMLN wanted to be at this point, in my opinion…. I think that all the years of making enemies instead of building allies among other progressives could easily result in the FMLN’s squandering, once again, their best chance of winning the presidency yet. They need to make nice with the PDC and PCN, run the best campaign ever (and raise a heck of a lot more money, probably). If they don’t find new allies in the Assembly, then they have few chances of winning — and, anyway, why would the FMLN even want to run the executive branch if the Assembly is not going to be sympathetic. Sounds to me like a bad recipe for governance.


  2. David, welcome to the virtual orchard.

    Indeed, the FMLN did not want to be at this point: It would have preferred to have this election in March (as I noted in the 18 Jan. planting).

    Still, 43% is the highest any Salvadoran party has been since the concurrent election of 1994, and the highest for the FMLN by just over 4 percentage points. I don’t see how that amounts to “deep trouble.”

    Obviously, the key is: how much greater is Funes’s personal vote than his party vote? I agree that the FMLN’s prospects in the presidential race are worse if it goes to a runoff for the reason you indicate: the PCN and PDC will not form an electoral alliance between rounds.

    I disagree that the FMLN has to win the first round. If Funes clears 45% (which implies only 2 percentage points of personal vote), it will be hard for the runner-up to overcome–unless, of course, he is close behind in the first-round vote. But that gets us back to the personal-vote factor: how much better than the ARENA vote in this election will Avila perform?

    The other factor to consider is turnout. Of course, it should be higher in the presidential election. Does that harm the FMLN prospects? I have no idea.


  3. Matthew,

    Good to have your feedback, so I can clarify my points, and add additional ones.

    When I said that the FMLN was not in a place they wanted to be, this was not a reference their desire to have had the two elections held together. That’s obviously true. What I meant was that, given the fact of these separate elections, the results at this time, after these municipal and legislative elections, are not what they expected — not nearly as good for them going into the presidential election as they’d hoped for. (This has been clear from media coverage, for starters.)

    You’re right– my comment about “deep trouble” is predicated on just how much room the FMLN has to grow, and there I’m more cautious about whether Funes can pull it off. It’s clear that FUNES can attract more votes than the FMLN alone. But it’s unclear just how many new voters he will be able to attract in the presidential contest, or how many of those who voted for PCN and PDC at the local level will abandon that party for the FMLN over ARENA. Or who will sit out the vote. That will depend a great deal on what transpires between now and March 15th (how much money is spent, mobilization capacity, quality of campaigns, etc.)

    Also, you may disagree that the FMLN does not need to win on the first round, but that’s not what I asserted. I said that this is what the Funes campaign strategy has been (based on my conversations), namely, to go for a first-round win — and that was based on the presumption that winning a second round would not be all that easy.

    True, we don’t know what increased turnout will mean, or whether PCN and PDC voters would respect a formal alliance with ARENA during a second-round run-off. (Note that ARENA’s already working towards a “gran alianza” — http://www.elsalvador.com/mwedh/nota/nota_completa.asp?idCat=6351&idArt=3263295)

    Apparently final totals are supposed to be provided today. So let’s see if that affects our analysis.


  4. Two more points:

    El Faro publishes the total votes from the municipal elections, in which the FMLN leads ARENA by only 20,000 votes nationwide. What to make of this? At the local level, PDC and PCN always get more votes, but the question remains: where do those votes go in the presidential contest? Does this data render less decisive the results of the legislative elections, in which the FMLN won by many more votes (if added up at a national level)?

    Related to that, some analyst friends in ES are arguing that this time around the votes for PDC and PCN will be very small at the presidential level. The 2004 presidential was very polarizing, bringing out unprecedented numbers of voters to the polls — with both ARENA and the FMLN more than doubling the votes received in the 1999 election. However, that was SACA vs. Schafik Handal — not a pleasant choice for some numbers of people, and 6.5% of the voters went to third party candidates of Hector Silva of the CDU-PDC, or the PCN candidate. To some extent at least the votes for Silva could be seen as a protest vote.

    So the argument is that this time the top two choices are more palatable, and that people will want to make a clear choice between the two. I’ve thought that the PDC and PCN candidates have their own base, and thus might draw enough votes away that the race goes to a second round. But that could be a wrong hypothesis.


  5. Pingback: El Salvador’s presidential election | Fruits and Votes

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