DE RUEHSN #0260 0632202
ZNY CCCCC ZZH
P 032202Z MAR 08
FM AMEMBASSY SAN SALVADOR
TO RUEHC/SECSTATE WASHDC PRIORITY 9121
INFO RUEHZA/WHA CENTRAL AMERICAN COLLECTIVE C O N F I D E N T I A L SAN SALVADOR 000260
E.O. 12958: DECL: 03/03/2018
SUBJECT: ZABLAH CANDIDACY AGAIN IN PLAY; WAITING ON FDR, PDC, AND CD
REF: 07 SAN SALVADOR 2423 AND PREVIOUS
Classified By: the Ambassador for reasons 1.4 (b) and (d)
1. (C) Summary: FDR, CD, and PDC are again discussing
seriously an across-the-board alliance to compete in
municipal, legislative, and presidential elections in early
2009. Arturo Zablah would be the coalition's presidential
candidate. An agreement could be reached as early as March
5. End Summary.
2. (C) Following Arturo Zablah's December decision (Reftel)
to abandon his bid to mount a third-party campaign for the
Salvadoran presidency after the PDC (Christian Democrats),
FDR (Democratic Revolutionary Front, an FMLN breakaway party)
and CD (Democratic Change) failed to reach agreement to join
forces behind Zablah as a single presidential candidate,
those talks have again resumed and Zablah may again be poised
to run. Hector Silva is being mentioned as his running mate.
PDC President Rodolfo Parker stepped out of a meeting with
FDR and CD to tell PolCouns February 29 that negotiations
were moving forward, though it was far from clear if CD would
agree to PDC and FDR's demand that any alliance be complete,
from the municipal to presidential elections, along with a
coordinating executive board and rules to keep all parties on
board. Parker said the parties aimed to have an agreement,
if one could be reached, by Tuesday, March 5 in order to
begin rolling out Zablah's candidacy soon thereafter.
3. (C) Parker estimated ARENA's "volatile vote" at around 30
percent, compared to the FMLN's 5 percent. This, he said,
means we would be taking votes from ARENA, not from the FMLN,
especially from voters tired of ARENA's 18-year rule and
looking to punish the incumbent party. The aim, Parker said,
was to keep those votes from going to the FMLN. Parker said
he had spoken with a number of ARENA supporters who expressed
interest in Zablah's candidacy, though ARENA's leadership
sees Zablah as "too independent".
4. (C) Parker said the parties had been studying options to
finance a campaign and had concluded they would be outspent
by both ARENA and the FMLN.
5. (C) Parker said the main sticking point in an agreement concerns CD's existing agreements with the FMLN in some 28 municipalities, where the two parties would jointly support a single mayoral candidate. These agreements would have to be undone in order to satisfy FDR and PDC, which may prove difficult for the CD. Parker said the less attractive option of a coalition between only FDR and PDC had not been ruled out, though he hoped CD would realize the FMLN's offer of a few municipalities is less attractive. Municipalities are important, he continued, because municipal elections will be held two months before presidential elections. If the FMLN loses a number of the municipalities they currently hold (e.g., San Salvador) this could diminish FMLN voters' enthusiasm and harm the Funes campaign, forcing a number of FMLN members from municipal jobs. The FMLN's strategy, he continued, is to keep ARENA from winning municipalities and is prepared to enter election coalitions "for free," offering, e.g., not to put forth a candidate for mayor in exchange for only a seat or two on the city council.
6. (C) Comment: The Salvadoran Constitution requires a
president to be elected with at least fifty percent of the
vote, so a Zablah run backed by a disciplined coalition (that
might at that point hold a dozen or more Assembly seats)
could easily throw the election to a second round (between
the top two first-round finishers) in April 2009. If Zablah
were to come in third, we would expect PDC and FDR to press
to throw their support behind ARENA -- for a price. And just
as now, CD would probably be willing to go with the highest
bidder, but the coalition structure Parker described would
(on paper at least) limit their ability to go it alone
backing the FMLN.
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