San Salvador (El Salvador): The parties of both candidates in El Salvador’s surprisingly tight presidential runoff clash claimed victory.
Pre-election polls had showed ex-guerrilla commander Salvador Sanchez Ceren of the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) comfortably ahead of Norman Quijano with the conservative ARENA party.
But with 98 per cent of returns tallied, the leftist candidate was leading on a razor’s edge: 50.10 per cent to 49.90, electoral authorities reported yesterday.
“The difference in our favor, rounding a bit, is slightly more than 8,000 votes. The Salvadoran people have made their choice … and we have a victory to celebrate,” said FMLN party chair Medardo Gonzalez.
But his ARENA counterpart was convinced its side had won.
“With the data from the electoral tribunal and our own tallies, of the utmost precision, we can say that we have achieved a victory for the Salvadoran people,” ARENA chief Jorge Velado said.
Election officials told both sides to wait for final results.
“This tribunal recommends and orders that no party declare itself winner given such close results,” said Supreme Electoral Tribunal president Eugenio Chicas in a TV and radio message.
Sanchez Ceren, 69, is El Salvador’s vice president. A former teacher and ex-education minister, he was one of five top guerrilla commanders during El Salvador’s bitter 1979-92 civil war, which pitted the FMLN against the US-backed conservative government.
Conservatives were in power for two decades until 2009, when Salvadorans elected FMLN candidate Mauricio Funes, a former journalist, as their first leftist president.