The outcome of El Salvador’s presidential election shows that the Central American nation is deeply divided. This reality is even more significant when it comes to governing than for the official determination of who won the second round of the elections.
The victory by Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front candidate Salvador Sánchez Cerén could not have been closer. Just 6,364 of more than 3 million votes cast spelled defeat for Nationalist Republican Alliance candidate Norman Quijano. This margin is equivalent to nearly double the number of votes challenged and one third of the votes declared invalid.
It is normal for such a close election to spark controversy, calls for a recount, and a final decision that leaves a bitter taste in the loser’s mouth. That is democracy: at the end of the day, there is a winner and a loser. The candidate defeated should accept his loss, and the winner should bear the context of his victory in mind when governing.
The election’s result shows that national negotiations are needed so that Salvadorans as a whole can overcome public insecurity, drive economic growth and reduce poverty. Two halves of the country pulling in opposite directions can only lead to paralysis and collective frustration.
Now is the time to leave the incendiary rhetoric behind. El Salvador has already suffered too much in a long, bloody civil war to fan the flames and endlessly question the legitimacy of the victor, despite the doubts. There is no need to get the military involved; they have already said they will respect the election results.
Democracy demands tolerance. The elections show a country divided between left and right. Both sides owe the Salvadoran people an effort to come together to work to resolve the problems that afflict the country.