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El Salvador election officials begin final tally as conservatives demand full recount

Election officials in El Salvador have begun a final manual tally after a razor-thin presidential vote. Supporters of the conservative candidate called for a full recount after early results favored his leftist opponent.

Thousands of supporters of Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) candidate Norman Quijano (pictured above) rallied in the capital San Salvador on Tuesday demanding that all ballots from Sunday's run-off election be recounted.

Two days after the vote, no winner has been determined in the Central American state. A preliminary count had former guerrilla fighter and outgoing Vice President Salvador Sanchez Ceren, of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), leading by just 6,634 votes out of nearly 3 million votes cast.

Protesters, who demonstrated at the hotel where electoral authorities were doing a final count, carried signs reading "Vote by vote" and "No to fraud, yes to transparency." Although ARENA supporters want a full recount, officials say the law only requires they review vote tally sheets from polling stations.

Quijano, the mayor of San Salvador, said he wanted to annull the election results because authorities weren't conducting a full recount. "We're going ahead and presenting a motion to have the elections on March 9 annulled," he said.

ARENA party president Jorge Velado said protesters would continue to take to the streets until a full recount was carried out. "The final count will be a joke if we don't get a vote by vote recount," he said.

International observers present for vote said they were satisfied with how it was conducted and the Organization of American States' mission said it would stay in the country until a final recount was completed.

ARENA, a party long-tied to El Salvador's landed elite, ruled the Central American nation of 6 million people for two decades until journalist Mauricio Funes put the FLMN in power with his election to president in 2009. Sanchez Ceren, who led the polls heading into the vote, has promised to govern as a moderate if elected.

dr/jm (AP, dpa)

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