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Ambivalent Moderation: The FMLN’s Ideological Accommodation to Post-War Politics in El Salvador

  • Ralph Sprenkels
Abstract

El Salvador’s FMLN is an oft-cited example of a rebel movement which successfully embraced electoral democracy. This article examines the ideological dimensions of this transformation. In the course of the Salvadoran peace process, the FMLN substantially overhauled its ideological orientation and associated modes of engagement with the state and the broader political system. Moderation unfolded in four subsequent stages: the resignification of revolution as a process of reform, the FMLN’s rebel-to-party adaptation, the electoral consolidation of the FMLN, and the FMLN as the party in government. Over the years, while electoral politics invited public moderation, Leninist dogma continued to dominate internal party politics. This article finds that the post-war FMLN has employed seemingly contradictory ideological repertoires in parallel. This ambivalence, strongly rooted in the war, has facilitated the FMLN’s electoral ascendency. It has also strained democratic consolidation in El Salvador.

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Ralph Sprenkels is Lecturer in Conflict Studies at Utrecht University. Contact email: R.W.F.G.Sprenkels@uu.nl

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