A right-wing opposition party on Monday led by a slim margin in El Salvador’s general election in which the leftist government of President Mauricio Funes faced a key test of its popularity. With more than 89 percent of precincts reporting, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal said the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) was ahead with slightly over 39.7 percent of the vote. It was closely followed by the ruling Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) with 36.8 percent. A conservative coalition named GANA led by ex-president Elias Antonio Saca, a congressional ally of the FMLN, was a distant third with just 9.4 percent of the ballot. Six smaller parties also fielded candidates.
If the results hold, ARENA will control 33 out of 84 congressional seats, FMLN 31 and GANA 11, officials said. ARENA, which ruled El Salvador for two decades following the country’s civil war, campaigned on a tough anti-crime platform that resonated with many voters tired of rampant crime.