On Sunday voters in El Salvador will elect their next president. As discussed here previously, I still think the leftist candidate, Mauricio Funes, will win, ending 20 years of rule by the right-wing ARENA party and marking the first presidential victory by the former guerrilla FMLN. But it could be close, and one can’t ever rule out a surprise.
One thing we know for sure is that there will not be a runoff. El Salvador’s presidency is elected by majority runoff and this is the first round. It is the first round of the presidential elections, that is. There were legislative elections in January, the first time that Salvadoran legislative and (first-round) presidential elections have occurred in the same year but not on the same day.
The reason there surely will not be a runoff is that the candidates of the other parties withdrew from the race after the legislative election. So, in essence, the legislative election functioned as the de-facto first round of the presidential election. The elections for legislature confirmed what surely everyone knew: that the FMLN and ARENA were by far the two dominant parties. More importantly, they perhaps showed the small left party, the CD, that it had better get out of the way and the vaguely centrist but mostly right-wing PCN and PDC that it might be possible to defeat Funes, after all. While a majority of votes would be required, whether in one round or two, the “momentum” factor of a strong plurality by either major candidate might have been something the other bloc wanted to avoid. Better to go for the one-round victory, when there is no question about who will contend for the second slot in the runoff (as there often is in two-round contests).
In any case, a legislative election within a few months of a presidential election is expected to function as a field-winnower. At least that is what I have long claimed about these “counterhoneymoon” elections. Nice to see theory confirmed by data–or, in this case, datum!*
POLL NUMBERS!!! Salvador election close, or not (boz)
Democracy Promotion in El Salvador: Elections 2009 (Latin American Musings)
El Sal’s street-level politics (The Democratic Piece)
* Actually, it is data, plural: two blocs of parties, and each winnowed its field to one presidential candidate.