San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Left-wing candidate Funes projected winner in El Salvador presidential elections

SAN SALVADOR – The streets of El Salvador filled with supporters of Mauricio Funes, 49, candidate of the left-wing Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), after official preliminary results projected him the winner in El Salvador´s presidential election Sunday.

The journalist and ex-guerilla received 51.6 percent of the vote to the 48.4 percent received by conservative candidate Rodrigo Avila, 44, of the ruling Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), with 73.8 percent of the country´s 9,543 polling stations reporting, Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) President Walter Araujo said.

“We have had a transparent, calm, peaceful and massive electoral process,” said Araujo, in an address to the country. Over 18,000 police officers and 2,000 soldiers were deployed to provide security at polling places.

Electoral observers concurred the election took place largely without incident, although the Organization of American States (OEA) reported several instances of foreigners attempting to vote.

An estimated 60 percent of the Salvadoran electorate cast their ballots to elect a successor to President Elías Antonio “Tony” Saca.

If the trend holds, the FMLN will have broken 20 years of ARENA majority control. The latter party has won the last four presidential elections, dating back to 1989.

The FMLN won 35 seats in nationwide legislative elections held in January, giving it a plurality but not a majority in the unicameral legislature. The FMLN also won 95 mayoralties in the Jan. 18 elections.

The FMLN, an umbrella group for left-wing guerilla factions in the 1980s, became a legal political party in 1992, after the signing of the Chapultepec Peace agreement at the end of the country´s civil war, which lasted from 1980 to 1992.

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