San Salvador, Reuters—A former Marxist rebel commander’s tiny lead in El Salvador’s presidential election is irreversible, the country’s electoral tribunal said on Monday even as his right-wing challenger declared he was the real winner.
Salvador Sanchez Ceren of the ruling Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), which as a rebel group fought a string of US-backed governments in the 1980–1992 civil war, claimed victory on Sunday after preliminary results showed he won 50.11 percent support.
Challenger Norman Quijano, the 67-year-old former mayor of San Salvador and candidate of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (Arena) party, had 49.89 percent support. He claimed fraud and insisted he had won.
Just 6,634 votes separated them, raising the prospect of legal challenges to the result and a weak mandate for the eventual winner.
“We put our technical teams to work all night, which is why I can tell you with certainty that the result of this election is irreversible,” Eugenio Chicas, head of El Salvador’s electoral tribunal, told reporters. He said definitive results would be ready in three or four days.
The FMLN and Arena—founded by the late Roberto D’Aubuisson, a reputed death squad leader—were fierce enemies during the civil war that killed about 75,000 people. El Salvador remains polarized between left and right so Quijano’s claim that he won the election immediately raised tensions.