Ruling party claims success in El Salvador votes for congress

El Salvador's conservative ruling party claimed several victories in Sunday's elections for congressional and municipal seats, while its former leftist rebel rivals said they had won the mayor's race in the capital.

President Tony Saca's ARENA party said it had won important mayoral races among the 262 at stake following a campaign that focused on jobs and economic growth in a poor nation that has sent hundreds of thousands of its citizens to work abroad, mainly in the United States

"ARENA has been the winning party tonight," Saca after preliminary vote counts were released. "We have recovered important provincial cities."

But while the party appeared to gain seats in the 84-seat unicameral congress, it seemed unlikely to achieve the majority Saca had hoped for.

The former rebels of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front, or FMLN, claimed victory in the key mayoral race in the capital.

The FMLN, which fought a 12-year civil war against the government before becoming a political party under peace accords signed in 1992, has governed the capital, San Salvador, for several years. Salvadorans also voted for 20 representatives to the regional Central American Parliament.

With about 20 percent of votes counted, ARENA appeared to be winning in about 32 congressional districts, five more than it previously held, but the FMLN was ahead in 33. Three smaller parties were ahead in the rest of those races.

"The candidates elected should have a sincere commitment to achieving the public welfare ... to promote development in the poorest areas of the country," said Msgr. Fernando Saenz Lacalle, archbishop of San Salvador, reports the AP.

I.L.