FMLN presidential candidate leads in polls
FMLN presidential candidate Mauricio Funes is the favourite to win El Salvador’s 2009 presidential elections, according to recent opinion polls. A survey conducted by CIG-Gallup gives Funes a 21 percent lead over ARENA presidential rival Rodrigo Avila. The recent economic crisis faced by the majority of El Salvador’s population has led to a swing towards the left-wing FMLN candidate Funes.
The results were released as the incumbent president and leader of the right-wing ARENA party commemorated his fourth year in office on June 1. President Elias Antonio Saca marked the anniversary by highlighting his commitment to social justice in speeches. However, according to opinion polls, 80 percent of Salvadorans believe the country is economically worse off under Saca, and 63 percent believe ARENA is no longer capable of governing.
ARENA backs down on electoral reform
Faced with increasing popular support for the opposition FLMN party, ARENA has made an embarrassing climb-down in its attempts to derail a previous electoral reform agreement. The agreement, made in 2007 between El Salvador’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) and the Organisation of American States (OAS) delegated responsibilities for strengthening the integrity of El Salvador’s electoral process to the OAS. In a stunning move, the TSE - whose president is an ARENA representative – announced on May 22 it would limit the role of the OAS to an advisory capacity, reducing its ability to promote transparency and fairness in the 2009 elections. A week later, amid widespread denunciations and growing pressure from opposition politicians and social organisations, TSE president Walter Arujo reversed the decision, saying he would honour the 2007 OAS agreement.
Community groups stop landfill scheme
A proposed landfill construction scheme approved by local government in Santa Ana has been halted thanks to the efforts of more than 20 community groups. On May 27, after six months of peaceful protest activities, their efforts were rewarded with an agreement to remove site machinery. The scheme, which threatens the affected communities’ only clean water supply, was widely seen as a political favour by Santa Ana’s mayor, whose Christian Democrat Party is headed by the majority shareholder of PRESYS, the firm awarded the construction contract. A company representative denied it had been forced to pull out of the scheme, insisting it was awaiting an evaluation by El Salvador’s environment ministry.