President Mauricio Funes yesterday announced his support for changes to El Salvador’s electoral laws that would allow Salvadorans living abroad to vote in national elections. At an event in celebration of El Salvador’s national Independence Day, Funes emphasized: "I do not exaggerate when I say that the institutionalization of absentee voting is a historical necessity... we are not a true democracy until the one-third of Salvadorans living outside the country have a voice in our elections.”
According to Funes, his government has requested technical advice from the United Nations and will strive to make all necessary changes before national elections in 2014. One component of the effort will be the modernization of El Salvador’s national identity card, Documento Único de Identidad (DUI), which Salvadorans living in the United States will be able to acquire at their closest consulate.
In the first eight months of 2011, Salvadorans living abroad sent home $2.4 billion in remittances to friends and families in El Salvador—a 4.8 percent increase over the same period in 2010. This makes the overseas community a vital part of the national economy. If the proposed reforms are successful, El Salvador will join the growing number of countries in the hemisphere that allow citizens residing abroad to participate in the political process through absentee voting.
With the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) nearing completion of its first pass through
Porfirio Lobo and the National Party won a landslide victory at every level of government. In the presidential elections, the National Party took upwards of 55 percent of votes cast, while the Liberal Party—long the numerically dominant party in
To put this trouncing in perspective: since political liberalization and civilian elections in 1981, no presidential candidate has received 54 percent of valid votes (not to speak of total votes cast). Furthermore, consider the last time that the National Party won the elections (only the second time since 1981). The winning presidential candidate, Ricardo Maduro, won with less than 50 percent of votes cast (52 percent of valid votes), and the National Party obtained neither an outright majority in Congress (it got 61 seats) nor among mayoralties (it won 148 of 298 municipalities).
In fact, after both the 2001 and 2005 elections, the winning party won only a plurality in Congress, forcing it to form coalitions to pass legislation. For the next four years, the National Party will not face this obstacle. This could further marginalize the three smaller parties (Democratic Unification party—UD, the Christian Democratic Party of Honduras—DC and the Innovation and Unity Party—PINU). Moreover, the UD’s very existence stands in question, given sharp internal divisions about whether to participate in the elections (the party decided to participate only a week before the election) and the party’s predictably miserable showing.