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The UN and the observation of the electoral process in El Salvador
Pubblicazioni Centro Studi per la Pace
The 1994 elections in El Salvador were the first elections held there after the signing of the Chapultepec Agreement, which was signed on 16 January 1992 between the Salvadorian Government and the Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN).
The present article aims to explain the peace-keeping operation established by the United Nations Security Council to monitor and verify implementation of the Salvadorian peace accords by the United Nations Observer Mission in El Salvador (ONUSAL).
1. Role of the United Nations in the Peace Process
2. Electoral Reforms
3. Political Significance of 1994 Elections
4. Political Parties: the FMLN, ARENA, and the Others
5. Electoral Division's Establishment
6. Electoral Division's Mandate
(3) The electoral observation process
1. Preparatory Office
2. Registration Process
3. Electoral Campaign
4. Election Day
5. Second Round
The mediation efforts of the United Nations in the peace process in El Salvador set new precedents in terms of the role played by the Organization. During 1990  , the parties to the conflict committed themselves to work towards political agreements that led to an end to armed confrontation and, ultimately, the peace agreement signed at Chapultepec Castle in Mexico City on 16 January 1992. The negotiation process took place with the participation of Secretary-General Javier Perez de Cuellar, his personal representative Alvaro de Soto, and the Under-Secretary-General for Political Affairs Marrack Goulding.
The Frente Farabundo Martí para la Liberación Nacional (FMLN) was demobilized as a guerrilla group and transformed into a political party. The Government Armed Forces were reduced and reorganized under a new doctrine. The old military-controlled police corps were disbanded and replaced by a new civilian force. Human rights were enhanced through new institutions and through legal and constitutional reform. The electoral system was also reformed and democratic elections were held in March and April 1994, with the participation for the first time of the FMLN. The United Nations was tasked and able to verify the compliance with the agreements.
The establishment of a UN Observer Mission in El Salvador (ONUSAL) came in the context of the verification of the 1987 Central American Peace Plan spearheaded by Costa Rican President Oscar Arias. ONUSAL benefitted from previous experiences of the UN Observer Mission for the Verification of the Elections in Nicaragua (ONUVEN), the International Support and Verification Commission (CIAV), and the UN Observer Group in Central America (ONUCA). Consistency and continuity of the UN role in the whole Central America peace process were granted by the Secretary-General's Personal Representative Alvaro de Soto, by ONUVEN/ CIAV and later ONUSAL Chief of Mission, the Secretary-General's Special Representative Iqbal Riza, and by the Director of the Electoral Assistance Division Horacio Boneo. This continuity contributed to strengthening the role of the UN by providing a coherent vision of the role of the Organization in the whole peace process and enabled ONUSAL to withstand even the most difficult of moments.
ONUSAL's Electoral Division, under the direction of Rafael Lopez Pintor also borrowed from UN experiences in Nicaragua, Haiti, and Angola. The work of the Division was based on the overall goals of achieving consistency between electoral practices and the development of a free and fair election; broad geographic and chronological coverage of the electoral process; and the effective use of necessary resources and procedures. These elements, gathered in the terms of reference and in the concept of operation of the mission are those that determine its characteristics  . The Electoral Division tried with its activities to contribute to the acceptance of the legitimacy of the electoral process and its results by the involved actors. The evaluation of the electoral process was made in light of the prior Salvadorian elections, the terms of the peace accords, and the extent to which it contributed to the consolidation of peace and democracy. Obviously, democracy needs more than periodic elections. As the Secretary-General wrote: "It would be unfortunate to confuse the end with the means and to forget that democracy implies far more than the mere act of periodically casting a vote, but covers the entire process of participation by citizens in the political life of their country"  .
Before I proceed, allow me to inform you that I was involved in various UN missions in Central America, particularly in my capacity as Head of the Preparatory Office and, as Lopez Pintor's Deputy, Coordinator of the 900 international electoral observers in El Salvador. Having said that, please note that the views expressed in my presentation today are my own and do not necessarily represent those of the United Nations.
1. The role of the United Nations in the peace process
The peace-keeping operation established by the United Nations Security Council to monitor and verify implementation of the Salvadorian peace accords the United Nations Observer Mission in El Salvador (ONUSAL) was unprecedented in several respects. ONUSAL was the first in the "second generation" of peace-keeping operations to emphasize post-conflict peace-building efforts to strengthen and solidify peace in order to avoid a relapse into conflict. Further, at a time when United Nations peace-keepers had rarely been involved in internal conflicts, ONUSAL was granted extensive oversight to monitor and report on the human rights situation within a sovereign Member State of the United Nations. In yet another step without parallel in United Nations history, these human rights monitors were sent to El Salvador before a cease-fire had been agreed upon by the belligerent parties in the hope that their presence would defuse tensions and provide a visible deterrent to violence and rights abuses. This was indeed how events unfolded .
ONUSAL was established in 1991, as a result of a long process of negotiation between the Salvadorian Government and the FMLN. Consultations with the Government and the FMLN began in late summer 1989, but talks between the parties started only in April 1990 in Geneva, Switzerland. All the negotiations were sponsored by the United Nations Secretary-General. The objective of these negotiations was to find a package of political accords that could resolve the long-term war in El Salvador, promote democracy, ensure human rights, and unify Salvadorian society. Since the beginning, the two parties to the conflict agreed that all the accords had to be verified by the United Nations.
The first important agreement between the Salvadorian Government and the FMLN was the San Jose Agreement on Human Rights, signed on 26 July 1990 in Costa Rica. In this agreement, the parties called on the United Nations to verify respect for human rights in El Salvador. The Security Council, in its resolution 693, decided to establish ONUSAL, as a peace-keeping operation which had to observe all the accords between the Government and the FMLN.
In July 1991, ONUSAL began its activities although there was no cease-fire arrangement. The first mandate was to verify the San Jose Agreement on Human Rights. ONUSAL began its work with the creation of a Human Rights Division, other divisions were subsequently established: Military, Policy, and in 1993, the Electoral Division. The work of ONUSAL evolved from 1991 to 1995. A small political office is still present (December 1996) in El Salvador to monitor those aims of the agreement which have not yet been achieved.
2. The electoral reforms
Electoral reforms were among the main issues that were negotiated during the peace process. In the Esquipulas II Agreement, on 7 August 1987, the Presidents of Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua expressed their intention to promote the democratization process and national dialogue necessary to ensure peace in Central America. Additionally, the Presidents committed themselves to call free and fair elections in their respective countries.
In the General Agenda and timetable for the Comprehensive Negotiation Process, part of the Caracas Agreement signed on 21 May 1990, the electoral reforms were included in the political accords. Moreover, this agreement established "the necessary guarantees and conditions for reintegrating the members of FMLN, within a framework of full legality, into the civilian, institutional, and political life in the country" .
In the Mexico Agreement, signed on 27 April 1991, it was decided to substitute the Consejo Central de Elecciones with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. This new institution became the highest administrative and jurisdictional authority in electoral affairs. All the political parties would be represented in the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. Also the political parties would follow all the Supreme Electoral Tribunal's activities. In addition to this, a Special Commission of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal was created in order to continue elaborating a general project of reforms for the electoral system.
In the New York Agreement, on 25 September 1991, the National Commission for the Consolidation of Peace (COPAZ) was created to supervise all the political accords between the parties to the conflict. However, the constitutional reforms needed to effect the accord were not taken until 30 November 1991.
In the Chapultepec Agreement, on 16 January 1992, the Salvadorian Government and the FMLN committed themselves to promote a project of reforms for the electoral system. Also, the agreement expressed the necessity to create a Special Electoral Commission in COPAZ. The idea of this special commission would be to study the project of reform for Consejo Central de Elecciones. In the timetable included in this Agreement, both the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and the Special Electoral Commission in COPAZ were scheduled to start working 15 days after the cease-fire, on 16 February 1992. The legal reforms were included in the new Electoral Code, effective on 3 February 1993.
On 8 January 1993, the Government of El Salvador invited the United Nations to observe the electoral process before, during, and after the elections. The Security Council, on 27 May 1993, approved the observation of elections as part of ONUSAL's activities.
3. The political significance of the 1994 election
The 1994 elections in El Salvador were the first elections held there after the signing of the Chapultepec Agreement. The agreement had generated reforms in the electoral system and political parties' system. These legal reforms in the electoral system created the right environment to hold democratic elections. Moreover, these elections were the first ones in which all political and ideological forces on the national scene agreed to participate, including the FMLN.
The four elections expected to be held simultaneously on 20 March 1994 were: elections for President, with a second round within the ensuing 30 days if no candidate had obtained an absolute majority in the first round; Parliamentary elections for the 84 seats in the National Assembly; municipal elections in 262 mayoral districts; and elections for the Central American Parliament. The presidential period was established for five years (1983 Salvadorian Constitution, article 153), the members of the Legislative Assembly were to be renewed every three years (article 124), and the representative of the Central American Parliament, and also Municipal Councils were to be elected every three years (article 202).
4. The political parties
Twelve political parties were competing. Most of the parties registered enjoyed parliamentary representation in the current National Assembly: the Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA), the Partido Demócrata Cristiano (PDC), the Partido de Conciliación Nacional (PCN), the three parties of the old coalition, Democratic Convergence that included Movimiento Nacional Revolucionario (MNR), Movimiento Popular Social Cristiano (MPSC), and Partido Social Demócrata (PSD), the Movimiento Auténtico Cristiano (MAC), and the Unión Demócratica Nacionalista (UDN). Among the parties not represented in the Assembly were the FMLN, the Movimiento de Solidaridad Nacional (MSN), the Pueblo Libre (PL), and the Movimiento de Unidad (MU). In mid-September the MPSC, PSD and UDN announced their intention to constitute a single fusion party which would again use the name Democratic Convergence. The main contending parties in the elections were the governing ARENA, the PDC which governed from 1984 to 1989, and the leftist opposition, whose presidential candidate was supported by the Democratic Convergence and by the FMLN.
The Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN) as a political party
Chapter IV of the Chapultepec Agreement described the political participation of the FMLN as a political party. Moreover, the agreement promoted the adoption of legislative decrees to that end. In addition, the FMLN obtained all the political rights that a political party has: "the freedom to canvass for new members; the right to set up an appropriate infrastructure [ . . . ]; free exercise of the right of assembly and mobilization for FMLN leaders, activists, and members; freedom for FMLN to purchase and use advertising space and mass media" . The FMLN was part of the COPAZ, and was represented as a political party in the Board of Vigilance, created to allow all political parties to monitor the electoral process.
On 15 December 1992, the Supreme Electoral Council approved a resolution to give the FMLN the legal status of a political party. With the same intention, the Legislative Assembly passed the 302 Decree, that gave all the facilities to the FMLN to become a political party. In order to do this, the FMLN presented its documentation, proving that it had more than 3,000 affiliates and met all the statutes in accordance with article 160 of the New Electoral Code.
The FMLN submitted a final inventory of weapons. The armaments were concentrated in designated areas and destroyed. ONUSAL verified and certified the whole process. The transformation of the FMLN from a guerrilla movement into a political party was internationally recognized.
A National Committee of 15 members, three per each group of the FMLN, was created. So, the Comandacia General, the head of the FMLN during the war, was eliminated. Mr. Schafik Handal was designated General Coordinator of the FMLN as a political party. Furthermore, the FMLN established many offices around all the municipalities, and organized affiliation meetings. During 1993, many municipal assemblies and conventions were celebrated in order to prepare the political party for the 1994 elections.
On 23 May 1993, the accidental explosion of FMLN armaments in Managua revealed that the weapons inventory presented by the FMLN had not been complete. This event appeared to be a violation of the peace accords. President Cristiani wrote a letter to the Secretary-General expressing ?his deep concern about this situation, saying that the FMLN's conduct might be a reason to disband the FMLN as a political party. But the cancellation or suspension of the FMLN's status as a political party could itself have dealt a severe blow to the peace process . The Supreme Electoral Tribunal asked ONUSAL in June 1993, to provide concrete information about the status of FMLN's armaments. On 17 August 1993, ONUSAL reported the conclusion of the identification and destruction of FMLN's weapons. On the other hand, Mr. Handal sent a letter to the Secretary-General in which he confirmed that the FMLN remained ?committed to continuing to develop and consolidate the peace process. No one is supporting, organizing or concealing the existence of such groups . Also, he stated that the FMLN was committed to proceeding forward within the peace process. The peace process went on.
Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA):
The party was founded by Roberto D'Aubuisson, who died in 1992. The party was accused to have been associated with rightist terrorist activities in the 1980's. Its hard line anti-left position was still clearly expressed by the words of its hymn describing El Salvador as the grave of the "reds". President Cristiani's line was perceived to be more moderate and business-oriented than that of D'Abuisson. Cristiani authorized the peace negotiation and did much to win support for a negotiated agreement from harder line elements of his party and the Armed Forces. His Government significantly changed the political economy of the country, reversing changes made in the early 1980's under the influence of Christian Democrat President Duarte. Cristiani's Government reduced taxes on export products, increased sales taxes, reduced government spending, privatized a nationalized system of marketing exports and began to privatize the banks.
ARENA's presidential candidate, Armando Calderon Sol, had demonstrated his electoral appeal by gaining the mayorship of San Salvador in 1988 and keeping it in 1992. The party campaigned as a party that had brought peace and economical revival.
5. The Electoral Division's establishment
In January 1993, the Salvadorian Government asked the United Nations to verify the presidential, legislative, and municipal elections due to be held in March 1994. As a consequence, the Secretary-General sent a letter to the Security Council in which he stated that the elections would be the first to take place after the end of the conflict and that they were "the logical culmination of the entire peace process" . Therefore, he recommended that the Security Council accept the Salvadorian Government's request.
A United Nations technical mission visited El Salvador from 18 to 28 April 1993 to define the terms of reference, concept of operations and financial implications of observing the electoral process. It met during this time with the civilian and electoral authorities, and all of the political parties. Several areas of concern were identified, such as the serious inadequacies of the existing electoral roll and difficulties with the timely issuance of electoral documents. The main deficiencies reported by the mission were:
b) Differences between the names included in the electoral rolls and those in the electoral cards, and/or persons with valid electoral cards whose names did not appear in the electoral rolls. These resulted in a considerable number of citizens not being able to exercise their right to vote at the legislative and municipal elections of March 1991.
c) A large number of citizens were not included in the electoral roster. Although no reliable data was available, it was estimated that about one third of the potential voters were not included in the electoral rolls or did not have a valid electoral card. As electoral registration is voluntary in El Salvador, it would have been unrealistic to expect the electoral rolls to provide full coverage. However, there were clear indications that this large percentage of non-registered voters could not be attributed to a lack of interest, but rather to problems in the registration process. Abundant circumstantial evidence existed that problems in this area were massive. In many cases, potential voters were required to go to the registration centres repeatedly before obtaining their document which, despite the 3-day time limit established by law, was frequently issued after several months' delay. In some cases, registration was denied because validation could not be achieved owing to the fact that the electoral authorities had not been able to obtain or process the person's birth certificate .
In order to detect and correct existing mistakes, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal launched a campaign which failed to produce significant results. However, although the campaign was not aimed at increasing registration, the number of requests for registration more than tripled during the campaign. This unexpected result indicated what could be achieved by a massive effort to increase the number of registered voters.
On 21 May 1993, the Secretary-General recommended the establishment of an Electoral Division as part of ONUSAL that would verify the Salvadorian electoral process, "including voter registration and the campaign, in order to ensure its impartiality and full respect for the right to vote" . In order to permit the Electoral Division to carry out its responsibilities, it was necessary that these activities be operated within the framework of the existing regional offices. These offices required a total of 38 additional international personnel, including administrative support staff, and seven local staff.
6. The Electoral Division's Mandate
The electoral component of ONUSAL was charged with observing the electoral process before, during, and after the elections in order to:
-Verify that mechanisms were in place effectively to prevent multiple voting, given the infeasibility of screening of the electoral roll prior to the elections;
-Verify that freedom of expression, organization, movement and assembly were respected without restrictions;
-Verify that potential voters had sufficient knowledge of the mechanisms for participating in the election;
-Examine, analyze and assess criticisms made, objections raised and attempts undertaken to de-legitimize the electoral process and, when required, convey such information to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal;
-Inform the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of complaints received regarding irregularities in electoral advertising or possible interferences with the electoral process; when appropriate, require information on corrective measures taken;
-Place observers at every polling site on election day to verify that the right to vote was fully respected; and
-Assist the Special Representative of the Secretary-General in preparing periodic reports to the Secretary-General, who would, in turn, inform the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and report to the Security Council as necessary .
(3) THE ELECTORAL OBSERVATION PROCESS
In order to carry out these duties, the Electoral Division developed its activities in five stages:
1. Preparatory Office
In this first stage (from 1 to 30 June 1993), the Electoral Division organized its structure at the central and regional levels and established contact with electoral authorities and local political leaders. The Electoral Division also initiated its cooperation efforts with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and the Board of Vigilance of the political parties.
The registration issue emerged as the main problem vis-a-vis the legitimacy of the electoral process. The Electoral Register was studied, and recommendations were proposed.
2. Registration Process
In the second stage (from 1 July to December 1993), the Mission observed the registration process, provided technical assistance to the electoral institutions, and followed the electoral campaign. In this stage, the Electoral Division had observers in all regional offices of the Mission, and by the end of 1993, it had employed electoral officials up to the full authorized level.
From 12 to 19 July 1993, the Electoral Division supported a survey, carried out by the Dirección General de Estadísticas y Censos, of the Economic Ministry and financed by the International Community through UNDP and ONUSAL, with the purpose of identifying the main reasons why people did not have their electoral card and suggesting appropriate policies to the electoral institutions. The study found that 28.7% of adults did not have their electoral card. Failure to register was most common in those departments which experienced the highest levels of armed conflict in the past. Nevertheless, the failure to register would appear to be due more to lethargy on the part of the citizens and technical ineffiency on the part of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal than to deliberate efforts to exclude certain sectors of the population for political reasons. There were numerous problems which limited the possibility of achieving a high percentage of registration .
Furthermore, a large number of people were abroad or deceased and there was insufficient control to avoid double registration. Also, there were discrepancies between people included in the electoral rolls and those on the electoral cards, or people who did not appear in the register at the polling station at which they were to vote.
To resolve that problem, ONUSAL collaborated closely with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), UNDP, and the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, to renovate the nation's central database, to rebuild municipal registries destroyed during the war, and to distribute birth certificates, personal identity cards, and identification cards for minors.
The UNHCR had initiated documentation activities with the Salvadorian repatriating refugees in 1987. In 1992, these activities were expanded with the purpose of including all undocumented persons. By February 1994, the project had allowed for restoration of 3,479 municipal registry books in all 14 departments, the replacement of 1,131,250 birth certificates and the issuance of 164,166 new birth certificates, 234,332 personal identity documents and 34,484 identity cards for minors .
Teams from ONUSAL's Electoral Division made an average of six observation visits to each of the country's 262 towns. Upon closure of the electoral rolls on 19 January 1994, it was determined that there would be some 2.3 million potential voters, or roughly 85 per cent of the estimated voting-age population .
In February 1994, the Secretary-General reported that the work completed by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the Board of Vigilance, the political parties, and the strategic and logistic support from the Electoral Division of ONUSAL and other foreign agencies resulted in a voter registration exercise that was more inclusive and free of flaws than might have been predicted a few months earlier .
3. Electoral Campaign
The electoral campaign for President started on 20 November 1993. After that date, the Electoral Division of ONUSAL had periodic meetings with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, the Board of Vigilance (made up of the representatives of all political parties), and all the political parties' campaign managers. Additionally, the Electoral Division created a system to receive and transmit complaints about Electoral Code violations. These complaints were to be sent in writing to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.
The Electoral Division stimulated discussions with the intention of obtaining the signing of codes of conduct by the political parties. Pacts of this kind were signed by all contending parties in each of the 14 departments of El Salvador, as well as a number of municipalities. On 10 March, at ONUSAL headquarters, all presidential candidates signed a declaration in which they declared their rejection of violence and their commitment to respect the results of the elections and to comply with the Peace Accords . The Electoral Division carried out periodic meetings with the political parties at the central and local levels in order to analyze the problems and possible solutions.
The teams of the Electoral Division attended more than 800 political events during the campaign. Most of them, political rallies and meetings, were conducted in an environment of freedom. In very few cases, incidents occurred. Approximately 34 per cent of events monitored by ONUSAL were organized by the Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA); 32 per cent by the coalition composed of the Convergencia Democratica (CD), the Movimiento Nacional Revolucionario (MNR), and the Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN); 16 per cent by the Christian Democratic Party; and 18 per cent by others parties .
Additionally, ONUSAL monitored political publicity in the mass media. Although all the political parties used the various radio and television stations, the participation of ARENA and the Christian Democratic Party was more intense than the others. As for the content of the political publicity in the mass media, ONUSAL reported that political advertisements were in most of cases in accord with electoral legislation. However, the Electoral Division received complaints from various political parties about the illegitimate use of public resources with the purpose of promoting a party then in the Government.
In monitoring the mass media, ONUSAL found that an institute and anonymous advertisers organized a campaign against the FMLN and its presidential candidate in the radio, television and newspapers. This violated electoral publicity rules, in the sense that only political parties could utilize political propaganda and, it was against the law to use in a political advertisement the emblems, symbols and insignias used by another political party. Despite the fact that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal ordered the elimination of this publicity, it continued in the mass media during the entire campaign. ONUSAL transmitted to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal complaints of irregularities in the use of political advertisements, in accordance with the Electoral Division's mandate.
As a matter of fact, ONUSAL transmitted to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal not only the complaints presented by claimants from diverse sources, mostly political parties, but also reports on irregularities detected in the field by ONUSAL observers. These communications included most of the main issues in the public discussion. In some cases, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal resolved the problems, however, ONUSAL followed its actions and made recommendations to this institution as appropriate. Some 300 complaints were presented to ONUSAL during the campaign period, most of them (23 per cent) dealing with arbitrary or illegitimate action by public authorities. The remainder consisted of acts of intimidation (21 per cent), destruction of publicity materials (18 per cent), aggression (9 per cent), murder (7 per cent) and miscellaneous complaints (22 per cent) .
By the end of the campaign period, the ONUSAL teams had made an average of nine observation visits each, and had also dispatched a total of 3,700 patrols. In the course of providing this support, some 437,000 kilometers of travel and roughly 270 hours of helicopter flying time were logged .
4. Election Day
In accordance with plans, ONUSAL monitored proceedings on election day by deploying nearly 900 observers of 56 nationalities who covered all polling centres with teams of between two and 30 observers. The observation continued from the time the polling stations were set up to the completion of the count. This massive presence of ONUSAL made it possible throughout the election day to resolve countless practical problems of organization of the voting . A team of 40 specialized observers monitored the official count of the votes in the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.
The observers collected information on the events of election day on more than 7,000 forms (one form for each of the 6,984 polling stations and 355 polling centres) which were gathered by the Electoral Division afterwards in order to assess how the election was conducted.
The Electoral Division of ONUSAL carried out a quick count based on a random sample of 291 polling stations. In fact, this quick count made it possible to have an accurate projection of the result of the Presidential election two hours after the polling stations were closed. The information was sent by the head of ONUSAL to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. The difference between the quick count made by ONUSAL and the provisional results provided by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal was 0.5 per cent. The final results gave to ARENA 49.26 %, slightly less than the majority required to gain the Presidency at the first round. Actually, ONUSAL's quick count was extremely opportune because in spite of the fact that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal had organized its own count, three days after the polls closed, the provisional count was still not complete. This lack of information, which might have created serious political divisions about the acceptability of the electoral process, was moderated by ONUSAL's presence.
The ONUSAL observers reported that all the polling stations had monitors of the main political parties, and also that had not observed any obstacle to their activities. The indelible ink, which was of considerable importance in preventing people from voting more than once, was, in general, applied properly. No serious incidents were reported, and election day could generally be described as having run smoothly.
Nevertheless, the ONUSAL observers found serious irregularities on election day. In fact, many polling stations started working after the stipulated hour because some of the voting material was missing, or because members of the polling station team were late. Moreover, many of the polling stations were so crowded that it was not possible to control them. Many voters were unable to reach polling stations because they were located far away with no public transportation. Additionally, observers reported that approximately two percent of the voting population could not vote because, even though they had their electoral cards, they were not included on the electoral rolls.
The Supreme Electoral Tribunal reported that 1,500,000 voters participated in the election. This amounted to 55 per cent of the 2,722,000 people on the electoral rolls. The Secretary-General attributed much of the difficulties to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, which, despite ample and timely support from ONUSAL, the donor community and NGOs, had failed to produce a more adequate electoral roll and to give sufficient training to polling teams and party monitors .
However, Mr. Augusto Ramirez Ocampo, Special Representative of the Secretary-General, declared that in light of the observers' reports and the systematic observation of the electoral process for more than six months, the elections had taken place under "appropriate conditions in terms of freedom, competitiveness and security . . . despite the serious flaws regarding organization and transparency". He also stated that the elections could be considered acceptable.
The final results, based on a count by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal carried out in the presence of the ONUSAL observers showed that none of the candidates had obtained the necessary votes to win the presidential election in the first round, so the two candidates that had received more votes would compete in a second round election on 24 April 1994. The two candidates were Mr. Armando Calderon Sol from ARENA and Mr. Ruben Zamora from the CD-MNR-FMLN coalition.
None of the political parties challenged the presidential election; nevertheless the results of the 38 municipal elections were disputed by the FMLN. ?The Supreme Electoral Tribunal subsequently decided that these appeals were not valid, leaving the election result intact. ONUSAL expressed its concern at the manner in which these cases were closed .
The results of the presidential, legislative and municipal elections of 20 March may be considered final. The irregularities in the elections ( . . . ) did not constitute ballot-rigging and thus had no impact on the elections results as a whole. Nevertheless, given that the electoral constituencies for the municipal councils are smaller, the irregularities may have affected some results there; they did give rise to a significant number of challenges. In some instances the Supreme Electoral Tribunal reached a decision after examining the evidence cited. In others instances, such as the electoral challenges made by the FMLN in 37 municipalities, the Tribunal agreed to hear the appeals but the evidence was not examined since it was decided that the appeal was not valid. ONUSAL legal officers determined that both the submissions and the Tribunal's decisions not to examine the evidence were tainted by procedural flaws. We expressed our concern at the manner in which these cases were closed. Given the political importance of the challenges and the need for transparency in elections of such significance it would have been wiser to deal more carefully with the appeals. In any event there is no appeal against Tribunal decisions on such matters, although the remedy of amparo under ordinary jurisdiction remains available to the individuals .
The Special Representative of the Secretary-General Mr. Augusto Ramirez Ocampo was replaced by Mr. Enrique Ter Horst on 1 April 1994.
5. Second Round
The Electoral Division of ONUSAL made some practical recommendations to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal with the intention of improving upon the problems that had been raised in the election on 20 March 1994. Among other things, the suggestions were: a) increase the number of polling stations in the urban areas; b) strengthen the training of electoral personnel; c) ensure the existence of sufficient public transportation; d) seek reform of the Electoral Code by the Legislative Assembly so that voter cards could be issued between first and second round; e) end violations of the ground rules relating to electoral publicity; f) clear up any discrepancies for people with electoral cards and not included on the electoral rolls; g) conduct a massive public information campaign emphasizing the deadlines for rectifying problems with electoral rolls, urging voters to participate and informing the electorate about the location of polling centres, with an indication that public transport would be available; and h) shelter the polling stations from the rain.
During the period between the two rounds, the Electoral Division focused the observation on five areas of improvement that the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and the two candidates considered as most relevant: the electoral roll, computation, printing, electoral projects, and training.
The Electoral Division and the political parties verified that the ballots, with the exception of 10,000, were printed in their presence. ONUSAL reported that the printing of the ballots was completed without any irregularity. In addition to this, the Electoral Division monitored the training of the polling stations' officers.
The second round was preceded by an electoral campaign which lasted just over two weeks. ONUSAL observers were present at campaign activities, fewer in number and attended by less people than those preceding the first round. On the whole, there were no incidents affecting law and order although, regrettably, there were some isolated acts of violence. Nationwide, the Electoral Division verified some 50 acts .
During the election day, 900 observers verified elections in all the polling stations in the country, from the time that the polling stations were opened until they closed. Observers also monitored the count in the offices of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. In general, the elections were better organized in different areas, including the adjustment of the polling stations, the use of guides to direct voters to the voting places, the display of Electoral Register, the existence of free public transportation, and the release, early on 24 April, of information on the result of the elections.
Throughout election day, ONUSAL observers noted the following kinds of irregularities: while most polling stations were open from 7 a.m. until 5 p.m., as provided by law, there were some which opened after 7 a.m. or closed before 5 p.m. In the Municipality of Pasaquina, 18 of 23 polling stations ceased to be monitored by representatives of one of the candidates. Many complaints were received from both parties about Electoral Code violations by party members who were campaigning at polling centres. There were two complaints about armed civilians. The National Civil Police also detained two people who voted twice. As in the first round, ONUSAL observers confirmed that a considerable number of citizens were unable to exercise their right to vote even though they had voter cards .
According to the final count by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, announced at a press conference on 27 April at 5 p.m., the results of the second round of the Presidential election were as follows: ARENA-818,264 votes (68.35 per cent); Coalition-378,980 votes (31.65 per cent); making a total of 1,197,244 valid votes. The total number of votes cast was 1,246,220, of which 3,467 were challenged, 40,048 were invalid and 5,461 were abstentions. The results were forecast on the night of 24 April by the Tribunal on the basis of a provisional count of more than 90 per cent of the votes. ONUSAL organized its own quick count, based on a sample of 294 polling stations, which showed, at 7.15 p.m. on 24 April, that ARENA had won 67.88 per cent of the votes cast and the Coalition 32.12 per cent .
I hope that I have made it clear that it is impossible to separate the United Nations Electoral Observation in El Salvador from the role played by the United Nations generally throughout the entire peace process. The dynamic synergy created by the different mandates of ONUSAL fulfilled the vision foreseen by Secretary-General Boutros Boutros-Ghali for the Organization in his report on May 1992, "An Agenda for Peace". With that synergy in mind, at least four specific contributions of ONUSAL to the electoral process merit mention:
1) The FMLN was recognized internationally and the Salvadorian Government had signed the Peace Agreements in Mexico City. Nevertheless the process of transforming the FMLN from a clandestine group into a legitimate political party encountered enormous resistance and distrust. The resistance increased after the explosion in Managua on 23 May 1993, which was followed by the discovery of undeclared FMLN weapon deposits. ONUSAL was a key player in keeping the process on track, facilitating the communication between the parties and affirming the credibility of the FMLN Comandancia, while also demanding their commitment for the total disarmament and transparency in the information provided.
2) The registration process had been under heavy criticism since the previous elections. Initially, the Government understated the problem while the FMLN presented it as an aggressive strategy of the right-wing Government to deny FMLN supporters their electoral rights. The differing views of the problem were creating a stalemate and threatened the credibility of the whole reconciliation process. ONUSAL requested and supported the conduct of a registration survey made by the Dirección Nacional de Estadística y Censos that confirmed the seriousness of the deficiencies of the Register and the lack of documentation among the population. The survey also found that the large majority of those affected by the deficiency of the system were concentrated in the larger cities and could not be identified as members of any party. As a consequence of the survey results recognizing important points raised by both the Government and the FMLN, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal launched a special registration plan, financed by the international community and executed with the close assistance of ONUSAL. As a result, the elections for President and for the Assembly achieved greater credibility although some concerns persisted on the fairness of the register for elections in the Municipalities in the ex-conflictive areas.
3) The presence and the credibility achieved by ONUSAL observers throughout the country and their integration with the local population had been cemented during the verification of the San José and Chapultepec Agreements. This helped to limit the number of incidents during the campaign and the days of the elections. Provocations aimed at destabilizing the campaign were successfully kept under control.
4) Finally, the independent quick count organized by ONUSAL and the presence of ONUSAL observers during the counting allowed for the avoidance of a major crisis that would have happened due to the small percentage, less than 0.75 %, that had prevented ARENA from winning in the first round of the Presidential election. Both parties were projecting the result based on the preliminary data they were receiving from their representatives at the polling stations. The distribution of the party representatives gave a slightly biased picture, due to the absence of the representatives from places where the party was not properly organized. As it turned out, the projected results of both of the strongest parties were wrong. ARENA thought it had won the first round and was ready to announce it and to call its supporters to celebrate the victory. The FMLN, convinced that ARENA results were well below 50 %, thought that ARENA would commit fraud, and stood ready to call out its militants to upset ARENA's celebrations. ONUSAL provided the Supreme Electoral Tribunal and the main parties' Presidential candidates with projected results, based on its independent quick count. The accuracy of ONUSAL projection and the credibility that the UN enjoyed with both leaderships served to avoid a clash.
These elections were considered by all the participating parties to be better than the previous ones and to have established a basis for continuous improvement over time. The results were accepted, nationally and internationally, and the role played by the UN was publicly appreciated by the parties and by the international community. The success of the electoral observation and of the role played by the United Nations in El Salvador was intimately linked to the desire of both parties to the conflict to find a negotiated, rather than a military, settlement. Whether an effort such as ONUSAL could be reproduced in another country, therefore, depends much on whether these minimum conditions are obtained: the willingness of the warring parties to find a peaceful exit and the willingness of the state to let the UN in. In any event, the observation of the electoral process in El Salvador in 1994 was a positive contribution to the peace process and contributed to the opportunity for Salvadorians to carve their path to a more peaceful future.
1. See: United Nations, General Assembly, Report of the Secretary-General on the situation of Central America; contains the text of the Geneva Agreement (4 April 1990) and the Caracas Agreement ( 21 May 1990) signed by the Government of El Salvador and the FMLN, A/45/706 - S/21931, New York, 8 November 1990.
2. See: Boneo, Grossi, Estrada, Informe de la Mision Preparatoria, p. 8, New York, 6 May 1992.
3. United Nations, General Assembly, Report of the Secretary-General on the situation in Central America, A/46/609, New York, 1991, p. 76.
4. United Nations, The United Nations and El Salvador 1990-1995, New York, 1995, p.10.
5. United Nations, General Assembly, op. cit., A/45/706-S/21931, p.30.
6. United Nations, The United Nations and El Salvador 1990 - 1995, op.cit., p.210.
7. United Nations, Security Council, Report of the Secretary General concerning illegal arms deposits belonging to the FMLN, S/26005, New York, 29 June 1993.
8. Ibidem., Annex II: ALetter dated 16 June 1993 from the Coordinator-General of the Frente Farabundo Marti para la Liberacion Nacional (FMLN) addressed to the Secretary-General.
9. United Nations, Security Council, Letter dated 26 January 1993 from the Secretary-General to the President of the Security Council concerning United Nations verification of elections to be held in El Salvador in March 1994, S/25241, New York, 4 February 1993, p.1.
10. United Nations, Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on all aspects of ONUSAL=s operations, S/25812, New York, 21 May, 1993
11. United Nations, The United Nations and El Salvador 1990- 1995, op. cit., p.37.
12. United Nations, Security Council, op. cit., S/25812, p. 9.
13. United Nations, Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the ONUSAL Electoral Division, S/26606, New York, 20 October 1993.
14. United Nations, The United Nations and El Salvador 1990-1995, op. cit., p.48.
15. United Nations, Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the ONUSAL Electoral Division, S/1994/179, New York, 16 February 1994, p.4.
16. Ibidem., p.5.
17. United Nations, Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General on the activities of the ONUSAL Electoral Division, S/1994/304, 16 March 1994, p.3.
18. Ibidem., p.4
19. United Nations, The United Nations and Peace Keeping Operations, New York, 1993, p.44.
20. United Nations, Security Council, op.cit., S/1994/304, p.2
21. United Nations, Security Council, Report of the Secretary General concerning elections held on 20 March 1994, S/1994/375, New York, 31 March 1994, p.3.
22. United Nations, The United Nations and El Salvador 1990-1995, op. cit., p.53.
23. Ibidem., p.54.
24. Ibidem., p.546.
25. United Nation, Security Council, Report of the Secretary-General concerning the second round of elections, held on 24 April 1994, S/1994536, New York, 4 May 1994, p.2
26. Ibidem., p.8.
27. Ibidem., p.9.