On Friday, September 6, the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of El Salvador ruled that only party flags, and not photos of candidates’ faces, will appear on the presidential ballot in the February 2014 elections. The decision is a blow to former President Tony Saca, presidential candidate with the right-wing Unity coalition, and suggests further evidence of the Chamber’s allegiance to the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party.
The Chamber had previously approved the inclusion of candidate photos on the 2012 municipal and legislative ballots, a measure that ARENA had fought for in the face of strong popular support for the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) party and major ruptures and infighting within the right-wing. The FMLN denounced the decision as favoring individualistic, US electoral-style popularity contests over concrete political party platforms and further discouraging the election of youth and women candidates.
Since former ARENA President Saca entered the race, however, the ARENA party has changed its tune. Saca, as former president and owner of a vast media empire, is widely recognized by Salvadorans, but the flag of his recently-formed Unity coalition is not; indeed, Saca as an individual polls much higher than the Unity coalition as a party. In a recent citizen suit calling for the inclusion of photos on the presidential ballots, Saca supporters offered evidence in support of the measure. Following the verdict, the Unity coalition announced it would consider modifying its party flag to include an image of Saca’s face.
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