Over the last fifteen years, most of the FMLN leadership that held "moderate" social democratic views left the party (Villalobos, Martinez, and Sancho in 1994, Guardado and Jovel in 2001, and the June 2005 revolt). At the same time, the FMLN reitereated its commitment to socialism.
In a doctrinal document drafted in 2004 by order of the National Council, the FMLN established a strategy of transition to socialism that passed through a first phase of state takeover and the deepening of democracy (FMLN 2004). To achieve power, they raised the possibility of concluding a series of broad political alliances with non-revolutionary sectors in the short-tem. This policy is a tactical partnership with those political forces that the FMLN leadership considered democratic, but not left.
In the words of José Luis Merino one of the party’s historic leaders:
"The road to socialism passes through the democratization of the country, in that sense all the democratic forces are our potential allies ... We have a strategic objective that might take ten, 20 or 30 years, because until one arrives at conscience: one arrives at socialism. To get there you have to consolidate democracy" (El Faro 2005).A colleague and I argue that this strategy is very similar to that taken by the PCS in the seventies: the seizure of power through elections in alliance with other political forces and, from there, the transformation of the country’s political and economic system. On the road to some sort of socialist state, the FMLN entered into a temporary alliance with a non-revolutionary candidate, Mauricio Funes, in 2009. Therefore, the political differences between Funes and the party and the talk of a president without a party isn't really news.
What I think is more interesting right now are the efforts by both Funes and the FMLN to test the waters for going it alone in the future. Funes would not be president today without the FMLN nor would the FMLN occupy the presidency were it not for the moderate and reassuring Funes. Today, however, Funes has his Movimiento Ciudadano Por El Cambio. This movement could easily transform itself into a party and propel someone in the Funes mold into the national spotlight. On the other hand, some FMLN have talked about promoting one of their own - a revolutionary candidate - in 2014.
2012 and 2014 could be interesting elections with ARENA, GANA, FMLN, and Funes going head to head!