Election Resources on the Internet:
Presidential and Legislative Elections in El Salvador, Parts I and II
by Manuel Álvarez-Rivera

The Republic of El Salvador, which held a presidential election on February 2 and March 9, 2014, returns to the polls to hold legislative and municipal elections on Sunday, March 1st, 2015. An overview of the electoral system of the Central American nation is presented here; El Salvador's party system will be reviewed in Part III of this presentation.

2015 election canvass results are available in Spanish here. National- and departmental-level results are available here for both rounds of the 2014 presidential election and the following legislative elections:

      March 11, 2012               Legislative Assembly      
      January 18, 2009               Legislative Assembly      
      March 12, 2006               Legislative Assembly      
      March 16, 2003               Legislative Assembly      
      March 12, 2000               Legislative Assembly      
      March 16, 1997               Legislative Assembly      
      March 20, 1994               Legislative Assembly      

The election statistics presented in this space come from reports and data files issued by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

General Aspects of the Electoral System

As set forth by the 1983 constitution, the Government of El Salvador is republican, democratic and representative; all public power emanates from the people. The fundamental organs of the Government are the Legislative, the Executive, and the Judicial.

The President and the Vice President of the Republic, the Ministers and Vice Ministers of State and their dependant functionaries, integrate the Executive Organ. The President and the Vice President are popularly elected functionaries, and the presidential period shall be of five years. When, in the elections for President and Vice President of the Republic, no participating political party or coalition of political parties has obtained an absolute majority of votes, a second election shall be carried out between the two political parties or coalition of political parties that have obtained the greatest number of valid votes; this second election shall be held during a period no more than thirty days after the results of the first election were declared to be firm. He who has filled the Presidency of the Republic for more than six months, consecutive or not, during the period immediately prior to or within the last six months prior to the beginning of the presidential period, shall not be a candidate for said office.

The authority to legislate fundamentally belongs to the Legislative Assembly. The Assembly consists of a single chamber, composed of eighty-four deputies; these represent the whole nation, and are directly elected for a three-year term of office. Each one of El Salvador's fourteen departments is a constituency, and Assembly seats are allocated among departments in proportion to their population; nevertheless, no department may have fewer than three seats. Parties and coalitions may present lists of candidates; starting in 2012, independent or non-party candidates will also be able to participate in legislative elections. Until 2009, electors could only cast a ballot for a single list. However, in 2011 the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador ruled that closed lists were unconstitutional: as a result, in the 2012 legislative election voters were able to choose a list, or one or more candidates in a single list, or one non-party candidate. A further Supreme Court ruling in 2014 allowed voters to choose candidates from different party lists, up to the maximum number of seats to be filled; any such votes cast are then proportionally distributed among the parties of the chosen candidates.

Legislative Assembly seats are distributed in each constituency according to an electoral quotient, obtained by dividing the total number of valid votes by the number of constituency seats. Then, the number of votes won by each party, coalition or non-party candidate is divided by the electoral quotient, and the result of this division, disregarding fractions, is is the initial number of deputies obtained by each party, coalition or non-party candidate. If there remain unallocated seats after the application of quotients, these are distributed according to the largest remainder method. Within each party or coalition, mandates are assigned to list candidates with the largest number of votes until all seats are filled.

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Last update: March 19, 2015.