Controversial elections in El Salvador

On February 4, presidential elections were held in El Salvador, with Nayib Bukele being reelected by a large majority despite constitutional norms that prevent consecutive reelection in the Central American country. We asked two members of Democratic Solidarity Latin America, Carlos Malamud and Leandro Querido, for their opinion on the electoral process and the future of El Salvador.

Carlos Malamud (Senior Fellow in Latin Amerca at the Real Instituto Espanol Elcano de Relacionales Internacionales and Professor at the UNED University in Spain.): The first thing to say is that Nayib Bukele won the presidential election in a completely legal way. The problem does not lie in the way in which Bukele won, but in the backdrop to his victory. To begin, we must keep in mind that presidential reelection is explicitly prohibited by the Salvadoran Constitution and that it was only thanks to a rather particular interpretation of the relevant articles that the Constitutional Court allowed Bukele to opt for reelection. In addition, the presiding judges were appointed by a parliament completely controlled by the ruling party. Conversely, a ruling of this nature would have been practically impossible with impartial judges. It is a victory built on the forceful fight against gangs (maras) and the weakness of the opposition. But it is worth asking: How long will the clamor for protection continue to allow Salvadorans to write a blank check to their government beyond the systematic violation of human rights? How sustainable, both economically and in terms of human resources, is the current fight against crime? 

Leandro Querido (Political Scientist, Director of the DemoAmlat. Professor in Facultad de Ciencias Sociales de la Universidad in Buenos Aires): El Salvador held the first elections under a state of emergency since the signing of the 1992 Peace Accords. With the final count completed, Nayib Bukele got almost 83% of the votes and will govern for five more years with an almost monochromatic Assembly, something especially worrying with an administration that has shown little predisposition to republican self-control, and who dares to say that this country will be the first to have a "democratic single-party regime." Everything is uncertainty in El Salvador. Unlike other unpopular autocracies, such as Cuba, Nicaragua and Venezuela, which don’t have free elections, this Central American state is heading towards a weakening of democratic rules with the validation of a majority.