How to Read the ARENA’s Electoral Campaign

Elaine Freedman’s July 2008 article “How to Read the ARENA’s Electoral Campaign” discusses the governing party’s extensive efforts to maintain control of the executive and legislative branches.  With the FMLN presidential candidate Mauricio Funes polling 20 or more points ahead of the ARENA candidate Rodrigo Avila, ARENA leadership has changed the election laws, solicited assistance from allies in the U.S. government, employed campaigns of fear and misinformation, and made claims that they are the only chance of democracy for El Salvador.  But still, Mauricio Funes maintains a steady lead over his ARENA rival.

Ms. Freedman offers a number of explanations for the FMLN’s early success.  Mauricio Funes, she points out, was never a militant and did not fight in the FMLN guerrilla army during the 1980’s, as did many of the party’s previous candidates. And though the Tony Saca claimed an open, grassroots process for choosing the ARENA candidate, the relatively drawn out and public process revealed many of the rifts that exist within the ruling party.  Ms. Freedman also discusses the ARENA’s claim that they are the party to fight the violence and crime that plagues the country, pointing out that the murder rate has increased over the past few years and that the government has failed to investigate murders believed to be politically motivated.  At different points this year, Tony Saca has made the case that the FMLN is supported by Hugo Chavez in Venezuela and FARC guerrillas in Colombia – neither argument has gained much traction with the Salvadoran electorate.

Overall, this article is a great guide for understanding the ARENA as a campaign machine, and what to look for over the next few months as we approach the January and March elections.

(Click here to read the entire article).

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