El Salvador elections: Another test for Latin America's left

Sunday's National Congress and mayoral elections in El Salvador are seen as a litmus test for President Mauricio Funes of the left-leaning Farabundo Marti Liberation Front (FMLN).

Luis Romero/AP
An electoral worker, left, helps a voter during legislative and municipal elections in Verapaz, El Salvador, Sunday March 11.

• A version of this post ran on the author's blog. The views expressed are the author's own.

According to provisional vote totals from yesterday's elections, the conservative ARENA party appears to have been the biggest winner for both El Salvador's National Assembly seats and mayors.  ARENA won 33 seats in the 84 seat National Assembly.  This is one more seat than the party won in the 2009 elections, but is more impressive when you consider that 12 deputies had defected from ARENA to form the GANA party leaving ARENA with only 20 seats in the National Assembly.  
 GANA was running in its first elections, and managed to capture 11 seats. Together with ARENA, their 44 seats could be a strong majority bloc in the National Assembly. Although it is still possible that the FMLN, GANA and CD could be a majority voting bloc with 43 votes.

The FMLN lost 4 seats from the 35 seats it had obtained in 2009.  This will be the first time since 2004 that the left wing party has had fewer deputies in the National Assembly than ARENA. With only 31 seats, the FMLN must get support from GANA and at least one of the other tiny parties in order to pass any legislation.
Of the remaining parties, the biggest loser was the conservative CN party, formerly the PCN, which dropped from 11 deputies to 6, and becomes much more irrelevant.
 In the mayor's races, Norman Quijano from ARENA will remain the mayor of San Salvador, handily beating Jorge Schafik Handal 63 percent to 32 percent.  A couple other high profile mayors retained their seats including the popular Oscar Ortiz, the FMLN mayor in Santa Tecla, and Will Salgado, who joined GANA to run for re-election as mayor of San Miguel.
Overall in mayor's races, it appears that ARENA fared very well.  Many municipalities in the San Salvador department will be headed by ARENA mayors including Apopa, Mejicanos, Tonacatapeque, San Martin, Soyapongo, and Ilopango.
 View all the vote totals here

 Tim Muth covers the news and politics of El Salvador on his blog.

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