Jesuit University of Central America responds to ARENA’s destabilization attempts

By CISPES

(Read the original in Spanish here)

The University of Central America (UCA), after bearing witness to the electoral process, learning of the ARENA party’s position, analyzing the current electoral legislation and closely following the actions of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, and after hearing and evaluating the reports from various national and international electoral observer missions, makes the following declaration:

1)     We are deeply concerned by the actions of the ARENA leadership, who have recklessly and irresponsibly adopted a confrontational position and attitude. Their rhetoric shows disrespect for the legitimate role of the Armed Forces and goes against the spirit of the Peace Accords, and is an attitude that threatens the stability and institutional authority of the country.

2)     It is incorrect to obey the law only when it favors one’s interests, and to refuse to recognize it when it is not. We reject the ARENA leadership position of refusing to recognize institutional authority and of casting doubt on the transparency of the electoral process. Article 209, paragraph 2, of the Constitution recognizes the right of political parties to oversee the entire electoral process. And in this regard, just like the FMLN, ARENA has had representatives at every stage of the proceedings to oversee the elections as the law stipulates, opportunities in which to verify the transparency of the process as a whole. By casting doubt on the transparency of the electoral process, the party leadership denies the labors of its own membership, disrespecting the popular will and positioning itself on the margins of the country’s institutional authorities.

3)     The Attorney General of the Republic is charged with verifying the transparency of the electoral process. Like all the participating parties, the Attorney General receives a copy of the legal register of votes cast at each of the voting tables, which serves to verify the integrity of the original register during the final count. Article 215, paragraph 3 of the Electoral Code states that if a political party alleges that the original register has been altered or differs from their copy, they must first compare it to those of the other parties, and then with the copies of the State Electoral Board or the Municipal Electoral Board, and in the absence of those, with the registers of the Attorney General. That is, our electoral legislation recognizes that the Attorney General can contribute to verifying the transparency of the elections when the other two bodies that are made up of the members of those same parties cannot do it. To appeal directly to the highest authority without first exhausting the previous proceedings and decisions, as the law requires, does not contribute to the strengthening of our rule of law.

4)     Practically all of the international and national observer missions have dismissed the possibility of electoral fraud and have described the process and the system as transparent, trustworthy and secure. In this sense, the work of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, and that of the members of the temporary electoral bodies formed to carry out the election have been exemplary, overcoming even some of the issues noted during the first round.

5)     We support the TSE’s decision to ensure the principle of judicial security. While Article 18 of the Constitution recognizes the right of all citizens to petition the government, petitions delivered to public institutions must be done within a legal framework. In a democratic state of law, the ethics and reason that influence the functioning of public institutions shall be in harmony with the law. It’s unacceptable to ask the Tribunal to act in a manner outside of the suppositions put forward in the law, as doing so would violate the principle of legality. And one mustn’t lose sight of the fact that we’re being asked to ignore regulations that were created, upheld and approved by the very parties presenting the demands.

6)     The conduct of ARENA’s leadership puts the democratic governance of El Salvador at risk and creates the conditions for a spiral of violence by privileging passion and trickery above the institutional mechanisms established by the law. El Salvador is not Venezuela, not in terms of its history, nor in terms of its current socio-economic situation, and not in terms of the state of freedom of expression. Intending to generate a similar situation by utilizing a media distortion of reality, attempting to provoke the police authorities to act against them, is a risk the country doesn’t deserve when there are established channels to resolve differences.

Considering all of the above, we make an urgent call:

  1. We call upon the ARENA party to respect the institutional authority and procedures established by the Electoral Code. We invite the party leadership to present relevant, credible, and consistent proof that substantiates the anomalies they have denounced, using the channels established by the law and thereby respecting the deadlines and stages of all open electoral proceedings. Furthermore, we exhort the ARENA party leadership to refrain from involving the public institutions that establish order and security of the state. We call on the FMLN to proceed with the conduct they have demonstrated thus far – ignoring the provocations and acting with prudence and within the framework of the law – as the final count is completed. We invite both parties to honor the commitment to respect the elections results, as expressed by point number 8 of the agreement signed on October 24, 2013 before the Office of the Human Rights Ombudsman.
  2. We call upon the various organizations, associations, “think tanks” and media, to refrain from promoting or endorsing messages that contradict respect for the democratic rule of law. Uncritical transmission or silent acceptance of the current position and activities of ARENA’s leadership is a manner of contributing to an environment of instability and disrespect for institutional authority, the very thing that they claim to be defending.
  3. We call upon the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to continue applying the electoral regulations in order to respect and rapidly make evident the will of the Salvadoran people expressed at the ballot box. And to continue acting with full transparency to avoid any doubt as to the final results of this presidential election.
  4. We call upon the citizenry and all political and social actors, to remain calm and maintain a conciliatory attitude regarding the results of the process. It is imperative to maintain the rule of law and public order in a spirit of peace, refraining from the use of violence.

Finally, we wish to give recognition to the Salvadoran people, who showed up to the ballot box in a massive and peaceful manner during the elections, demonstrating once again its democratic and peaceful sensibilities and calling. We call on the population to maintain this same spirit, to trust that the electoral authority will respect its will.

San Salvador, March 12, 2014

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