Nayib Bukele, the president of El Salvador, declared himself the winner of the presidential elections on Sunday, even though no official results of the count had been published yet. He made this announcement in a message on Twitter, claiming to have garnered a “record” vote that exceeded 85% and guaranteed him 58 of 60 deputies in the Assembly. The preliminary official results began to be published almost two hours later and from the beginning they gave a wide advantage to the president’s party, Nuevas Ideas.
The Salvadoran president sought to renew his mandate for another five years, until 2029, and revalidate his security strategy despite criticism. He encouraged his voters to support his project so as not to lose a single deputy in the Assembly and thus maintain “the tool that has worked for us,” in reference to the emergency regime in which the country has remained for almost two years.
Much of the president’s popularity is due to the fight he began against the gangs that plagued El Salvador. For almost two years, the country has lived under an emergency regime that is renewed month by month and that suspends fundamental citizens’ rights, such as having the right to a lawyer or being informed of the reasons for detention. In this context, more than 76,000 people have been imprisoned, of which 90% are without a judicial sentence, and although this strategy has been widely questioned by human rights organizations, it constitutes the foundations of the heavy-handed policy that Bukele proposed to fight crime and gangs in his last years in office.
Critics also point to the breakdown of democratic checks and balances throughout the government since Bukele first took office. He replaced members of the judiciary with allies and is running for president again despite constitutional law prohibiting a second consecutive presidential term.
Some 6.2 million of Salvadorans (740,000 abroad), were called to vote in these elections monitored by thousands of soldiers and police, and for the first time under a state of emergency since the civil war ended in 1992. Dozens of international electoral observers were present in many of the voting centers, but the majority avoided commenting on how the process was going.
Researcher Joao Picardo, from the Francisco Gavidia University (UFG), highlights the political weight that the president has and affirms that “there is a lack of commonality between people and political parties as a political structure.” He says that Salvadorans have “become more linked to the figure of the president.”
Bukele’s popularity was supported by the change in the security environment that, according to citizen opinion surveys, the Central American country is experiencing. “We need to continue changing, transforming. We have lived through very difficult stages of life, the truth is. As a citizen I have lived through stages of war “, and with this situation that we are experiencing with the gangs (…) Now we have a great opportunity for our country. I want the generations to come to live in a better world,” said José Dionisio Serrano, 60, proud to have been the first in line, in a school converted into a voting center, in an area previously controlled by gangs.
The Vice President of El Salvador does not rule out Bukele seeking a third term if he wins re-election.
Image Source: www.univision.com
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