Viewing cable 06SANSALVADOR315
Title: EL SALVADOR: FIVE WEEKS FROM ELECTION, ARENA LEAD

IdentifierCreatedReleasedClassificationOrigin
06SANSALVADOR3152006-02-07 21:37:00 2011-08-30 01:44:00 CONFIDENTIAL Embassy San Salvador
This record is a partial extract of the original cable. The full text of the original cable is not available.
C O N F I D E N T I A L SECTION 01 OF 02 SAN SALVADOR 000315 
 
SIPDIS 
 
E.O. 12958: DECL: 02/06/2016 
TAGS: PGOV PREL ES ELECTIONS
SUBJECT: EL SALVADOR: FIVE WEEKS FROM ELECTION, ARENA LEAD 
NARROWS 
 
REF: A. 2005 SAN SALVADOR 2507 
 
     ¶B. 2005 SAN SALVADOR 3215 
     ¶C. SAN SALVADOR 210 
 
Classified By: DCM Michael A. Butler, reasons 1.4 (b) and (d) 
 
¶1. (C)  Summary:  Latest polls indicate that the Nationalist 
Republican Alliance (ARENA) retains the lead in both mayoral 
and Legislative Assembly races, but its lead over the 
opposition Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) 
has narrowed slightly.  There is no indication thus far that 
this will be a continuing trend.  Large numbers of 
Salvadorans report their intent to vote, but many have still 
not settled on their local candidates.  Nearly 47 percent of 
voters do not think their vote will affect local problems. 
Indications are that ARENA may win additional Legislative 
Assembly seats, although probably not the desired 43 seats 
that would give them a simple majority vote.  This polling 
was conducted before the recent death of FMLN leader Schafik 
Handal, which may cause slight shifts in voting intentions 
(see reftel C).  Saca's private pollster and his Mexican 
political strategist (protect) told Polcouns last week that 
they would consider it a real setback if ARENA were to 
capture any fewer than 39 Assembly seats.  These strategists 
said that their numbers thus far show that ARENA could win 41 
seats or more, strictly on Saca's highly-popular coattails. 
End Summary. 
 
Background 
---------- 
 
¶2. (SBU)  The Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) 
presently holds 29 of the Legislative Assembly's 84 seats, 
with the usually-dependable support of its center-right 
National Conciliation Party (PCN) allies' 14 deputies. 
Legislation requiring a 43-vote simple majority is more or 
less a matter of routine business.  Although the (FMLN 
dissident) Revolutionary Democratic Front (FDR) failed to 
receive official status as an independent party in time to 
offer its own slate (reftel B), they have formed a coalition 
with the Democratic Center (CD) and the Christian Popular 
Social Party (PPSC; a Christian Democratic Party/PDC 
breakaway group).  The coalition currently holds 14 seats 
with which ARENA and PCN must negotiate legislation requiring 
a two-thirds (56 vote) supermajority, such as the assumption 
of external debt necessitated by approval of the federal 
budget or constitutional reforms.  ARENA and the PCN now 
hold, respectively, 109 and 53 of the nation's 262 
municipalities, including seven large cities.  The FMLN's 71 
municipalities include Santa Ana (municipal capital of Santa 
Ana department)  and all of greater San Salvador, except for 
the ARENA-ruled suburb of Antiguo Cuscatlan. 
 
Polls show slight dip in intention to vote for ARENA 
--------------------------------------------- ------- 
 
¶3. (SBU)  A poll performed January 14-22 by leading daily La 
Prensa Grafica involved 2,000 interviews nationwide with 
persons above the age of 18.  ARENA retains the lead in both 
mayoral and Legislative Assembly races, but may have lost 
ground slightly.  In November, 27.7 percent of the population 
indicated an intent to vote for ARENA for mayor, whereas now 
25.9 percent of the population intends to vote for ARENA. 
Similarly, in November, 28.7 percent of the population 
intended to vote for ARENA for Legislative Assembly deputy, 
but the latest poll shows 26.6 percent with intent to vote 
ARENA.  Conversely, the FMLN has made some gains, from 11.6 
to 15.1 percent for mayoral races, and from 12.5 to 17.2 
percent for Legislative Assembly seats.  ARENA candidates 
continue to hold leads throughout the country in both mayoral 
and Legislative Assembly races, but margins are narrower in 
the eastern zone and San Salvador metropolitan area.  Voters 
in San Miguel (departmental capital of San Miguel department) 
indicate a very strong preference for the PCN, and, in Santa 
Ana, for the PDC.  (Note:  San Miguel Mayor Will Salgado was 
previously elected on the ARENA ticket prior to his defection 
to the PCN.  End note.) 
 
¶4. (SBU)  Large numbers of Salvadorans (78 percent) indicate 
an intent to vote, but many have still not decided for whom 
they wish to vote (25.9 percent for mayoral candidates, and 
27.2 percent for Legislative Assembly candidates).  Many 
Salvadorans also declined to inform pollsters of their 
preferences for candidates (20 percent for mayoral 
candidates, and 19.6 percent for Legislative Assembly 
candidates).  Approximately 47 percent of voters do not think 
that their vote will result in solutions to their local 
problems. 
 
Candidate important--but unknown 
-------------------------------- 
 
¶5. (SBU)  According to 57.8 percent of the population, the 
individual candidate is what most influences their voting 
preference.  However, when asked to name their local 
Legislative Assembly members, an overwhelming majority (77.6 
percent) couldn't name a single Legislative Assembly 
representative for their area.  Only 3.7 percent could name 
all of their representatives; 17.1 percent could name some 
but not all deputies.  When asked to name a Legislative 
Assembly member from each party who had performed well in 
office, approximately 4 out of 5 Salvadorans didn't name 
anyone.  This varied little by party, with the PDC's Rodolfo 
Parker receiving the highest rating at 2.8 percent.  The 
now-deceased Schafik Handal rated second highest with 2.5 
percent. 
 
Criminal concern 
---------------- 
 
¶6. (SBU)  At just over 40 percent each, crime and economics 
virtually tied as the number-one overall concern of those 
interviewed.  When asked what specific crime problems 
concerned them, 27 percent stated delinquency, and 11.9 
percent stated gangs.  Economic issues of concern were more 
diverse, with 12.7 percent of respondents citing 
unemployment, 11.9 stating the economy, and 8.5 percent 
stating poverty.  When asked about local issues of concern, 
infrastructure problems took the forefront, with lack of 
water and bad streets topping the list (10.8 and 10.0, 
respectively).  Crime was identified as the second most 
important problem, with delinquency and gangs being the 
number one and two answers given in the category of security 
(9.8 and 6.1 respectively). 
 
¶7. (C)  COMMENT:  The most recent polling data was collected 
before the January 24 death of longtime FMLN leader Schafik 
Handal, which could cause slight shifts in voting patterns in 
some races (see reftel C).  Handal's death may provide a 
temporary rallying point for FMLN hardliners recently 
hard-pressed in finding issues of resonance to voters, 
although any such phenomenon applies only to FMLN 
strongholds, and in any event may be too short-lived to 
affect the election significantly.  The big prize in this 
election continues to be the San Salvador vote, where 25 
Legislative Assembly seats will be decided.  The fight for 
those seats is being waged by the highly popular Tony Saca 
(rather than the weak ARENA candidate) against the FMLN 
political machinery, which has controlled San Salvador and 
its metropolitan area since the 1997 elections. 
Barclay