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March 16, 2009
El Salvador veers left in presidential election

After 20 years of conservative rule by the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) party, El Salvador elected leftist Mauricio Funes of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) on Sunday.

The FMLN is made up of former guerrillas who fought to overthrow U.S.-backed governments in El Salvador. President-elect Funes said he would seek strong relations with Washington and called for a spirit of “reconciliation” as one ARENA official called the country “totally divided.”

Watch a video of Funes going to cast his vote from YouTube user arpastv:

Blogger “Kaystle23” helped with election monitoring in San Salvador, and writes about the mood on the street:

There is a whole procedure that is needed to ensure that the votes are counted correctly and fairly, and so I was there to observe and ensure that no fradulent acts were committed.  […] The counting was done in a theatre, which was in the middle of a street. If you go up the street you´ll be met be met by ARENA supporters, and the other side, FMLN. The two had a cheer off you could say […] We scoffed when the FMLN started chanting “Si Se puede” (yes we can), which of course, had been coined by the Obama campaign. It was even funnier because ARENA said the same chant. Then FMLN started saying “It’s okay to cry” and then ARENA responded “you already lost.”

[…] To be here in El Salvador and to actually witness a real significant change in the country is amazing. Many have been waiting for this change in political parties for 20 something years, and for this to occur can be comparable to how many african americans felt when obama won. When Funes came on TV today and thanked the international observers who came, I was shocked of how much our presence means to the people of the country, and it gave me chills to think I may have in some way helped contributed to this momentous occasion. The streets after a proposed winner was called, was filled with fireworks and horns honking and the FMLN campaign teams running through the streets with flags. Everyone here is just excited for a new government, and they believe its finally time for a change.

So, even though I smell soo gross and im sweating liking no other, today was amazing, and I can´t wait to see how today will change the future of El Salvador.

Voters head to the polls.

Another blogger, “Dalfa,” reacts to the election from Santa Ana (translation from Spanish by Worldfocus staff):

Yesterday was a historic day. Change came to the Left. They won the votes of the Salvadoran people and beat the other parties, beat businessmen, the media, fear and lies […] democracy has returned to El Salvador.

[…]It is very emotional to see this go down in history, to live in this moment where change has come. You can smell it in the air — Salvadorans are going out into the street with smiles on their faces, now they know that things can change. Now, 20 years after the end of war, they know democracy is possible and that their votes count.

[…] I close this small reflection with hope that the future of El Salvador can be better, that we are done living under the boot of the Salvadoran Right.

Another blogger named “David,” an electrical engineer in San Salvador, reacts as well, noting the use of online campaigning (translation from Spanish by Worldfocus staff):

The internet has been very important this time in the elections, because young people have utilized the Internet instead of the traditional media, and I want to congratulate the political parties who have taken this into account. One must not forget that people of El Salvador must be united, and leave aside differences, to be able to have a better country […] since only together we will be able to achieve true CHANGE — not just change of government, but change of attitude. […] I congratulate Mauricio Funes.

Follow more reactions to the election on Twitter here.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user LShave under a Creative Commons license.

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