A new poll has revealed that the governing left-wing Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN) will fail to win an absolute majority in next year's legislative elections, despite a rise in public support for the president, Salvador Sánchez Cerén.
Voters look set to return another divided legislature at the elections next March, with neither of the two major political parties able to dominate. According to a survey carried out in mid-November by LPG Datos (the polling branch of a leading daily newspaper), the FMLN would win 29.2% of the votes, against 28.9% for the main right-wing opposition party, the Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (Arena). As is the case with the current unicameral legislature, the balance of power would be in the hands of the third-largest party, the Gran Alianza por la Unidad Nacional (Gana), a situation that benefits the FMLN more than Arena, given that Gana was formed by Arena dissidents. That said, the polling results also indicate that it is unlikely that there would be any sort of formal electoral alliance in March 2015 between the FMLN and Gana, as some commentators have suggested.
Another notable aspect of this polling is that the number of undecided voters has dropped significantly compared with three months ago-with all three major parties gaining a larger slice of the vote. That is quite a feat for FMLN, given constant criticism in the conservative media. Approval ratings for Mr Sánchez Cerén have also risen over the past three months, up from just 40% in August to 47% in November, although in comparative terms this still places him much lower than his two predecessors: six months into their terms in office, Antonio Saca (2004-09) and Mauricio Funes (2009-14) both enjoyed approval ratings of 70% or more. When questioned about Mr Sánchez Cerén's record so far, the vast majority of respondents pointed to failings on the economy and crime, although there was also praise for the government for the recent approval of the second phase of the US Millennium Challenge Corporation budgetary support programme-known in Spanish as Fomilenio II.
Impact on the forecast
The forthcoming legislative and municipal elections will dominate the political arena over the next three months, but we do not expect any major upheavals in terms of political stability in the long-term. Our baseline forecast assumes that neither the FMLN nor Arena will achieve a majority.