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Last Updated: Monday, 22 March, 2004, 08:07 GMT
Right wins El Salvador election
By Claire Marshall
BBC correspondent in San Salvador

Presidential candidate Tony Saca casts his ballot
Saca is a former sports presenter
El Salvador has elected a new leader. The right-wing Arena party has triumphed for the fourth time in a row.

Tony Saca beat the former rebel commander, Schafik Handal, by more than 20 percentage points, according to official preliminary results.

After a nasty election campaign, which opened up the old divisions of El Salvador's bitter civil war, the right has won once again.

Arena has ruled this Central American country for the last 14 years.

The party faithful started celebrating minutes after the vote count began, when initial results suggested that former sports television presenter Mr Saca would win in the first round.

Less than three hours later, before the official result was confirmed by the electoral council, he declared himself El Salvador's president-elect.

Left-wing setback

Appearing at a podium in his trademark shirt of his party's colours - red, white and blue - Mr Saca said the people of El Salvador had asked him to take care of the future and not to slip back into the past.

Live on local television, he then proceeded to take congratulatory telephone calls from the leaders of other Central American nations.

Fireworks could be heard crackling across the skies of the capital.

This is result is a resounding rejection of the left-wing in its current form.

It is unlikely that Mr Handal, a 73-year-old Communist former guerrilla commander, will stand again.

It seems that for the left to become a significant force in modern Salvadorean politics, its leaders will have to modernise.

The BBC's Claire Marshall
"A resounding victory for Tony Saca"

Left claims El Salvador victory
17 Mar 03  |  Americas
Country profile: El Salvador
16 Mar 04  |  Country profiles
Timeline: El Salvador
02 Jan 04  |  Country profiles

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