As a member of El Salvador's National Assembly, Flores was known as "the peacemaker" and developed a reputation as a consensus builder. But he shocked his own party when he announced his candidacy months before other parties had decided on nominees. Though his party had been well-known for its vehement anticommunist rhetoric in past elections, Flores avoided the polarizing rhetoric of his predecessors.
Instead he portrayed himself as a moderate centrist, and used a massive, costly media campaign to get across his message. In March 1999 he won by a landslide, garnering 52% of the vote. His closest rival was Facundo Guardado of the FMLN, who collected a mere 29% of the vote. Turnout, however, was low. Of three million eligible voters, only about1.2 million cast ballots.