El Salvador: Bukele Reelected Despite Irregularities and Violations to Democracy

By Alejandra Garcia on February 6, 2024

Bukele’s re election celebration

This Sunday, candidate for re-election Nayib Bukele proclaimed himself president of El Salvador with just 30 percent of the votes counted. “This has been an overwhelming victory, in which we have received more than 85% of the votes,” said the president, 42, amid claims of irregularities, violations of democracy, and problems with the vote count.

The following day, the percentage suddenly jumped to 70%, according to preliminary results from the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, which admitted that the remaining percentage of votes would be left uncounted due to failures in the tallying system. That figure allowed Bukele to obtain a preliminary 83% of the votes, well ahead of the 7% of his closest competitor from the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN).

“And not only have we won the presidency, but we have gained the Legislative Assembly with 58 out of at least 60 seats,” he affirmed amid shouts and cheers of “Yes we could” by his followers. Meanwhile, the complaints continued as polling station workers denounced the breakdown of the transmission system, the slow internet connection, the lack of paper to print the tally sheets, and even system errors that doubled and tripled votes for the New Ideas Party of Bukele.

Bukele’s victory, although expected, had been controversial long before. The president’s nomination sparked anger in the Central American country, whose Constitution prohibits immediate reelection. Last August, following an anticipated performance last August, Bukele announced that he would “step aside from the presidency during the next six months” to be eligible to run for the nomination. Rather than lay low, the local newspaper El Faro verified the delivery of food packages in several localities of the capital, San Salvador, during which Bukele allegedly was due to take time off.

El Faro also verified that these presidential gifts were not the only ones. The Government, through the Ministry of Agriculture, designed another stealthy program to distribute thousands of quintals of tax-free rice, donated by the Government of the People’s Republic of China, during election campaign time.

“Neither of the two governmental efforts is being publicized by the Government neither in social networks, nor in state media. The explanation for this silence, strange in a Government that publicizes everything it does, is that the electoral law prohibits the Government from generating propaganda in the month prior to Election Day. The boxes are the latest gift from Nayib Bukele, the president who pretends he is not the president but will win an election that will make him govern for five more years, despite the prohibition dictated by the Constitution,” El Faro condemned in an article published on January 25.

Bukele’s track record is dire. He assumed the presidency of El Salvador in June 2019 and almost immediately intimidated Congress by militarizing it and applying an emergency regime that suspended citizens’ constitutional rights to “minimize gang violence.” The measure has been questioned by human rights organizations that denounced arbitrary detentions, violations of due process, and alleged torture. Today, the country registers the highest rate of detainees in the world.

It remains to be seen what will happen in El Salvador, a country with an Emergency Regime that eliminates several constitutional guarantees, such as the presumption of innocence, where corruption or the violation of democracy seem irrelevant complaints. Meanwhile Bukele’s mega prison continue to fill on his orders.

Source: Resumen Latinoamericano – English