Election authorities in El Salvador decided to skip the customary preliminary vote count and proceed straight to the final count after a series of technical mishaps.
Meanwhile, candidates from both the ruling Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) and the main opposition party, the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), have declared victories in key mayoral and legislative races.
The delays are fueling suspicions and stoking harsh criticism toward the country’s voting authority, the Supreme Electoral Tribune (TSE).
This year’s election is a tight contest between the ex-guerrilla FMLN and the conservative ARENA party for control of the Legislative Assembly.
El Mundo, one of the country’s morning newspapers, wrote Tuesday in an editorial that the TSE had failed all tests regarding the vote count.
“Chaos…has reached such a level that not even when votes were counted by hand was there as much delay as there is now,” the paper wrote.
The editorial also criticized the electoral authorities for what it said was a lack of communication with the public regarding problems with the vote count.
David Morales, El Salvador’s Human Rights Ombudsman, told the daily La Prensa Gráfica that the situation was “serious” and “regrettable” but discarded the possibility of fraud.
He said the TSE and the company hired to tabulate the votes were jointly responsible for the problems.
La Prensa Gráfica noted that the TSE carried out two test tallies prior to the election, and that both were failures.
This year for the first time Salvadorans had the option of voting for a party list of candidates for legislative office, or for individual candidates from any party. This also contributed to delays in the vote count at many polling centers.
Nearly 5 million Salvadorans were registered to vote on March 1 to elect 84 members of congress, 262 mayors and some 3,000 municipal council members. Voters also cast ballots for the country’s 20 representatives to the Guatemala-based Central American Parliament.