It is already past midnight in Nejapa, El Salvador. Poll workers at the Jose Matías Delgado School voting center, exhausted after having arrived at 5 am, are still arguing over how to fill out the new count sheets introduced for this year’s electoral process. Scenes just like this were repeated all across El Salvador during the March 1st elections. Salvadorans took to the polls in relative calm to cast their ballot for mayors, National Legislative Assembly representatives and Central American Parliament (PARLACEN) legislators. Delayed openings, allegations of vote buying in rural areas and isolated confrontations between voters or poll staff did little to impede the active exercise of suffrage throughout the country. The process was declared broadly transparent by visiting international observation delegations, including that of the Organization of American States (OAS).
So why did it take almost a month to get elections results in a system that has been lauded as one of the most democratic and transparent in the region? The answer partly lies in the interventionist role played by the nation’s Supreme Court.
As the Farabundo Martí Liberation Front (FMLN) has consolidated its legislative and executive power, the Constitutional Chamber of the country’s Supreme Court has demonstrated growing loyalty to El Salvador’s political right. They have issued increasingly controversial rulings to undercut elections and curtail legislative decisions.