Presidential elections are taking place today in two countries in Central America, El Salvador and Costa Rica. The latter country also has legislative elections, whereas El Salvador uses a non-concurrent cycle and will not elect its National Assembly for another year.
Experts say both of Sunday’s votes will result in runoffs, as neither candidate leading in the polls is likely to get the 50 percent plus one vote needed to declare victory.
One might wonder who these experts are, as in Costa Rica, it takes 40% to win in a single round, not a majority.
For El Salvador, an average of five recent polls puts the incumbent Vice President Salvador Sanchez of the FMLN in the lead, but indeed well short of a majority: 35.6%. The ARENA candidate, Norman Quijano, currently mayor of San Salvador, is second with an average of 31.3% in the polls. In third with around 11% is Elias Antonio Saca of GANA. Saca is a former president from ARENA who split from his party with a good chunk of its caucus in the current National Assembly to lend support to Mauricio Funes, elected in 2009 as the first president from the FMLN. Obviously, his voters will prove pivotal in the upcoming presidential race just as his votes have been pivotal in the legislature.
As for Costa Rica, the race is said to be tight between Johnny Araya of the ruling National Liberation Party and Jose Maria Villalta from a left-wing Broad Front that has been only a marginal force until now. In fact, other than in 2002, Costa Rica has never required a runoff, as it has had two parties generally dominant since the current democratic regime was founded in the late 1940s. However, in recent years it has been more fragmented. (In 2006 the winner barely averted a runoff, and both leading candidates were just barely over 40%.) Perhaps runoffs are going to be needed more frequently in the future.