On Sunday March 16th, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) formally announced that FMLN candidate Salvador Sánchez Cerén is El Salvador’s new president-elect. Although the final review of the elections results finished on March 12th, giving the FMLN the win 50.11% to 49.89%, the TSE was first obliged to respond to a series of formal petitions filed by the ARENA party calling to annul the elections before officially declaring a winner.
Eugenio Chicas, president of the TSE, stated during Sunday night’s press conference that all five TSE magistrates had unanimously rejected ARENA’s petitions because they did not meet the requirements for declaring an election null and void according to the Electoral Code, specifically, by not outlining “systemic and repetitive [fraudulent] conduct.” International observers from the United Nations and the Organization of American States have noted the high level of transparency and fairness of these elections.
Now that a winner has been officially announced, the ARENA party has 48 hours to submit additional formal petitions challenging the elections results. Ernesto Muyshondt, vice president of ARENA, has already announced that the party will try to contest the results through any institution possible, making specific mention of the Attorney General’s Office and the Supreme Court’s Constitutional Chamber, since ARENA has “a complete lack of trust” in the TSE as an electoral authority.
Belarmino Jaime, Constitutional Chamber magistrate, however, has reiterated that the TSE is the maximum electoral authority and that the Chamber may only intercede if the petitions indicate that the Constitution has been violated. He declined to comment specifically on the content of the ARENA petitions that the Chamber has received thus far, but did state that the it had ruled on the pending suits challenging the constitutionality of the contending candidacies, and would announce this ruling at a later date. The Chamber has been known to rule strongly in favor of El Salvador’s right-wing elite, so this latest cryptic statement only adds to the Salvadoran populace’s tense wait for the seemingly never-ending post-elections hubbub to die down.