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New El Salvador govt faces challenges after closest of votes

Commentators say the main challenge for the new government is to reduce deep political divisions within the population.
National Palace, San Salvador

National Palace, San Salvador

After days of political posturing, allegations of fraud and sinister threats of military force, El Salvador's right-wing National Republican Party (ARENA) lost the presidential election by the narrowest of margins: It all came down to just 6,364 votes.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) confirmed that Salvador Sánchez Cerén had won the surprisingly tight-race for the incumbent left-wing FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front).

The elections were declared free and fair by international observers and the US State Department, amid protests and thinly veiled threats of a coup d'état from ARENA's presidential candidate Norman Quijano and his supporters.

The election, which Sánchez Cerén had been expected to win by a landslide, highlighted the profound social and political divisions within the tiny Central American country.

The 12-year bloody civil war (1980-1992) between the US-backed army serving the interests of the landowning right-wing elite and the FMLN fighters, supported by the poor majority, left 80,000 people dead and 12,000 missing.

An amnesty law secured impunity for perpetrators and left victims without justice — it was ruled illegal by the Inter-America Court of Human Rights — which means 22 years after the war ended, wounds are still raw and mistrust between the right and left still deep.

Sánchez Cerén, a former leader of the FMLN fighters who is loathed by the right, has publicly called for reconciliation and unity over the past week amid accusations from Quijano that he is a Chavez-Maduro ideologue intent on turning El Salvador into the next Venezuela.

ARENA, which looked down-and-out after the first round in February, impressed tens of thousands of voters with its rhetoric to produce a razor-tight finish.

Doubts have been raised throughout the campaign about Sánchez Cerén's ability to govern effectively.

Read the full article: Al Jazeera

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