El Salvador holds presidential election as FMLN hopes to hold power


El Salvador is holding its presidential on Sunday, with voters electing the Central American country’s head of state for the next five years.

Hugo Martinez, of the governing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN); Carlos Calleja, of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (Arena); Nayib Bukele, of the Great Alliance for National Unity (GANA); and Josue Alvarado, of the recently founded Vamos party, are vying to govern the nation.

This is the sixth presidential election since the end of the 1980-1992 civil war and more than 5.2 million voters are eligible to cast ballots for the successor to President Salvador Sanchez Ceren.

Sanchez Ceren, the first former guerrilla commander to govern the country, will step down on June 1.

Salvadoran Supreme Electoral Court (TSE) chief Julio Olivo called on his countrymen to vote “starting early in the day” with “optimism, joy and the true spirit of patriotism.”

Olivo said the election would be clean and citizens “can vote in peace because 23,000 police officers, with the support of 15,000 members of the army, will provide security to Salvadorans who go to exercise their right to vote.”

The TSE ordered the campaigns to take down election materials posted at polling places and to remove loudspeakers being used by the parties because they “are interrumpting” the voting.

Scores of people, including politicians, party activists, election workers and domestic and foreign election observers were spotted outside polling places before 6:00 am.

Police are providing security at the 1,595 polling places set up across this small Central American country’s 14 provinces.

The polls are scheduled to close at 5:00 pm and officials will start tallying ballots at that time.

Martinez, a former foreign minister, was the first candidate to vote, arriving just before 9:30 am at the Concha Viuda de Escalon School, where dozens of supporters chanted “Presidente! Presidente!”

The FMLN candidate was mobbed by well-wishers and took about 15 minutes to finally cast his ballot.

Martinez, who made social policies the focus of his campaign, called on his rivals to stop spreading rumors about “fraud” in the election and respect the will of the people.

“The only ones crying fraud are the ones who have doubts about their numbers and want to destabilize” El Salvador, Martinez said.

Attorney General Raul Melara, for his part, said “there will be no fraud” in Sunday’s election.

“We should not be spreading rumors of fraud when guarantees have been given in this country on repeated occasions, in different elections, and the people’s will has been respected,” Melara said in a television interview.

The FMLN, a leftist guerrilla movement turned political party, is trying to win a third straight presidential election.

El Salvador holds presidential elections every five years and legislative and municipal elections every three years.