Salvadorans vote Sunday in a presidential election that may give former leftist rebels a second chance at government — or return national leadership to the right-wing party that ruled the country for two decades. Opinion surveys have shown an extremely tight race, especially with the entrance of a new third party run by a former conservative president with family members tied to notorious corruption cases. More than 20 years after the end of a civil war in which more than 75,000 people were killed, choices remain stark in El Salvador. When the left won the presidency in 2009 for the first time in modern Salvadoran history, there were high expectations about change and progressive policies after a generation of conservative rule. But many Salvadorans now express disappointment in a country where international drug trafficking has made great inroads, gangs control entire neighborhoods, and economic growth has plummeted.
Salvador Sanchez Ceren, vice president and candidate for the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, the guerrilla group that became a political party after the war, appears to have a slight lead going into Sunday’s vote.
Close behind is Norman Quijano, a popular former mayor of San Salvador, the capital, who represents the once-dominant Arena party.
Both are polling at about 30 percent, according to most surveys. A candidate must receive more than 50 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff.