Former head of state Elias Antonio Saca, who finished third in last weekend's Salvadoran presidential election, said Thursday that he will not endorse either of the candidates now set to face other in a March 9 runoff.

Salvador Sanchez Ceren, the candidate of the ruling leftist FMLN, took 48.92 percent of the vote on Sunday, compared with 38.95 percent for Norman Quijano of the main opposition right-wing ARENA party.

Saca, who governed from 2004-2009 as a member of ARENA but was subsequently expelled from the party, garnered 11.44 percent of the vote.

"We won't support either of the two candidates," Saca told reporters Thursday, expressing the official position of his Unity coalition.

"We cannot decide for people," he said in the western town of Ataco. "We respect the citizens and they will ultimately decide who they give their votes to."

Saca was in Ataco at the invitation of an association of coffee-growers, who asked the former head of state to sit in on their meeting with Sanchez Ceren and other FMLN leaders.

Unity comprises the National Conciliation Party, the Christian Democrats and the Grand Alliance for National Unity, a party formed by disaffected members of ARENA.

Neither the FMLN nor ARENA has sought his endorsement, Saca said, adding that the individual parties in the Unity coalition were free to make their own decisions about the second round.

The winner of next month's runoff will take office June 1 for a five-year term. EFE