Country Report El Salvador 1st Quarter 2015

Update Country Report El Salvador 13 Nov 2014

Supreme Court orders fundamental reform of voting rules

Event

In a controversial ruling published on November 5th, the constitutional chamber of the Corte Suprema de Justicia (the Supreme Court) has struck down the current system of limiting voters to a choice between pre-defined party lists of candidates in elections for Congress.

Analysis

This is a radical change to the current electoral code and would for the first time allow "cross voting" for candidates. This would end the current system under which the political parties can define the list of candidates in a given voting district, and therefore effectively oblige people to vote only for those lists. If the electoral code is reformed following the constitutional chamber's unanimous ruling, voters in a district represented by, for example, ten deputies, would in future be free to vote for any ten candidates, notwithstanding their party affiliations.

Critics of the change argue that this would further complicate an already complex voting process, and rightly point out that it could lead to people mistakenly voting for more candidates than are designated for a particular district, effectively invalidating their ballot paper. It is clear that any reform would need an extensive run-out period. The Tribunal Supremo Electoral (the supreme election tribunal) has already requested an extra US$4m in order to publicise the changes and pay staff extra for their increased workload. However, proponents of the reform say that it would ultimately benefit the democratic process. Unsurprisingly, politicians are split along party lines, with the governing left-wing Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN) rejecting the reform and the main opposition right-wing Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (Arena) signalling its support. However, it is unclear whether the reform would secure the necessary majority support in the Asamblea Legislativa (the unicameral legislature), where it requires approval in order to be implemented.

Impact on the forecast

It is unlikely that the electoral code will be altered in time for the forthcoming mid-term elections in March 2015. However, these and other issues will continue to polarise opinion as the electoral period approaches. For the moment, our baseline forecasts remain unchanged.

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