Government, Political Parties
FMLN, Christian Democratic Party, military elite, PRUD, political factions
El Salvador was dominated from the 1860s to 1944 by the Liberal Party, which represented the elite class of coffee planters. More modern parties representing middle- and working-class interests then began to emerge. But from 1944 to 1979 two ruling parties—first the Party of Democratic Revolutionary Unification (PRUD), then the Party of National Conciliation (PCN)—continued to represent the powerful landowners and military elite.
Beginning in the 1960s, the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) and the National Revolutionary Movement (MNR) challenged the governing PCN, drawing support from workers, students, and Catholic clergy. But when the two parties formed a coalition and appeared to win the presidential election of 1972, they were suppressed by the PCN government, and their leaders were exiled. A left-wing guerrilla movement, the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), then emerged to oppose the government. The clash of these political factions, representing a broad spectrum of the Salvadoran people, culminated in the civil war of the 1980s. With support from the U.S. government, the PDC became a major force in the government. Right-wing interests then formed the National Republican Alliance (ARENA) in 1982, and by 1989 it gained control of the government.
With the end of the civil war, the FMLN became a political party in 1992, serving as the leading group in a leftist coalition. Many other political parties also formed, and the splintering of political parties has become characteristic of modern Salvadoran politics. ARENA maintained control of the government in the 1990s. It lacked a majority in the legislature but was able to govern through an alliance with the PCN, which was still an active party. In 2000 elections the FMLN defeated ARENA, although ARENA was able to maintain control of the legislature with the support of the PCN.
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