CIS Finds Runoff Elections Fair and Transparent
CIS’s 10th International Election Observation Mission
Runoff Press Release
The CIS has observed every election in El Salvador since the 1992 Peace Accords. For this year’s presidential elections, we have had a group of observers following the process since October, 2013. CIS’ preliminary report after the first round of voting was used in training for the municipal electoral authorities as well as influenced the guidelines for the counting of votes from abroad. For the runoff election on March 9th, 2014, we observed in 4 departments in 8 large, medium and small municipalities governed by different parties. We also observed in the voting center for Salvadorans Abroad.
We congratulate the Salvadoran people for their overwhelming electoral participation and commitment to strengthening the democratic process in El Salvador.
Similarly, we congratulate the Supreme Electoral Tribunal for the high level of transparency throughout the electoral process which has contributed to generating maximum confidence in the announced results.
We understand that the second round of elections can be polarizing; however this is part of the democratic process.
We congratulate the FMLN for their prudence and respect regarding the final scrutiny process and the results.
At the same time, we want to express our concern regarding the actions of some candidates and senior officials from the ARENA party who declared themselves the winners, usurping the authority of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. We condemn the belligerent declarations of the presidential and vice presidential candidates of ARENA, which could incite the use of violence, military and police intervention to defend their antidemocratic assertion of power.
Voter reception at the polls was orderly and more efficient during the second round due to the experience acquired during the first round of voting.
Nevertheless, tension was palpable and there was plenty of fear and intimidation campaigning before the second round of elections. For example:
• Three days before the elections, employees of ARENA mayors organized protests, closing principle arteries of the country with the intention to provoke violence and compare El Salvador with the disturbances in the streets of Venezuela.
• Text messages were received the evening of Saturday March 8th, from the number 7841-1268 with the following message: “THINK ABOUT THIS, the attorney general confirms that the FMLN Government has paid the gangs for a truce that has caused the increase in delinquency, disappearances, assaults and extortions. PASS THIS ON”. This message was sent to various phones including four of our observers.
Logistical Observations of the Process
• The voting center organization was improved.
• The location of the voting booth was adjusted to improve the flow of voters in the voting centers.
• The party monitors did not take over the poll workers’ jobs, as happened in the first round. However, at least in Santa Tecla and San Salvador, some party monitors acted as guides inside the voting centers and were observed attempting to influence the vote.
• It was more efficient to have four instead of three poll workers at each table. This improved the distribution of the responsibilities at the polling station. Despite this there was some confusion in the role of the first and second chair.
• The incorrect location of the table top voting booth, in voting centers in Sensuntepeque, continued to violate the secret vote.
• Papers were distributed to citizens with their poll number and FMLN and ARENA propaganda. These papers were given to the poll workers together with people’s identity documents (DUI), which violated the secret vote. (Tonacatepeque, Mejicanos)
• Poll workers had markings, although not partisan, which identified the parties at the polling station (for example blue or green ribbons).
• The Supreme Electoral Tribunal took steps to guarantee the respect for the LGBT community so that they could vote without fear. This sent a message of tolerance toward gender identity and respect for human rights.
• The police were very respectful and maintained security without intimidation.
• The members of the police voted in the run off, although there were some occasions when they did not present their police ID card.
• The member of the Legislative Assembly for the department of Cabañas, Carlos Armando Reyes Ramos spent one hour campaigning inside the voting center Victoria School in Victoria, Cabañas. He also prohibited the CIS observer from taking his picture.
• In the voting center Albert Camus there were obvious attempts by the ARENA party to influence the vote that included gifts. Some gifts were water, the newspaper La Prensa Grafica, Tupperware, wheelchairs, among others.
• We denounce the sale of alcohol by street vendors at the Redondel Masferrer on Sunday March 9th in the evening, during the FMLN’s celebration. This happened with police presence.
• Improved instructions for counting the votes from abroad reduced the number of nullified votes.
• We congratulate the JEVEX for making an agreement for the second round regarding issues associated with opening the blue envelopes. They took the CIS recommendations to count the votes when the information form was sent inside the white envelope. In addition they agreed to count the vote when the information form was from the first round and the ballot from the second round. They also made recommendations with regards to being more flexible on the signatures, as one is handwritten and the other is electronic.
• Enforce the law by not permitting any party influence on voters inside or outside voting center.
• Guarantee that the party representatives acting as guides within voting centers abide by the law by remaining at least 100 meters away from the voting center entrance.
• The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) should take steps to improve voter orientation and remove party influence by having at least one TSE representative providing orientation within each voting center.
• Instructions need to be clarified regarding laminated identity cards.
• Enforce the law regarding members of the police force voting before 7a.m. and needing to present their identity card as well as their police identification.
• Increase the public education campaign to have voters verify the location of their voting center and focus such campaigns on rural communities.