“The Re-election That Bukele Is Seeking Is One More Step Towards Electoral Fraud”

There is a good chance that Nayib Bukele will be a presidential candidate in the next elections in 2024 and end up governing another five years in El Salvador, despite the fact that the Constitution prohibits remaining in power for two consecutive terms. Last week, through a televised message to the nation, Bukele announced that he will seek re-election after not having stopped concentrating power since his arrival at the Executive in 2019.


Nayib Bukele, the 'millennial' president of El Salvador who has proclaimed himself the "coolest in the world"

Nayib Bukele, the ‘millennial’ president of El Salvador who has proclaimed himself the “coolest” in the world

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“What Bukele is doing is completely contrary to the Constitution, it is a direct violation of at least six articles,” explains lawyer José Marinero, president of the Democracy, Transparency and Justice foundation, to elDiario.es. In the Salvadoran Magna Carta there are so-called stony clauses -one of them related to the continuous presidential re-election- that cannot be modified, not even through a constitutional reform. In his opinion, Bukele “is using constitutional justice to authorize the possibility of re-election” and recalls that whoever wants to be president again in El Salvador having previously held that position “must allow a period of 10 years to elapse.”

power surge

Bukele’s authoritarianism intensified in March 2021, when his party, Nuevas Ideas, won a historic majority in the Legislative Assembly. Barely two months later, the new Congress dismissed the judges of the Supreme Court of Justice and Attorney General Raúl Melara, while in September that same instance of justice approved the presidential re-election.

“That resolution of the Constitutional Chamber imposed by the ruling party is completely illegitimate, it is contrary to the Constitution and it is a document that has no legal value,” clarifies Marinero. Bukele himself, before becoming president, recalled in interviews with the media that continuous re-election is prohibited in the country.

The Salvadoran Government has made many other controversial decisions in recent times. Congress, at the request of the president, approved last April some reforms to the Penal Code to toughen sentences against gang members and to be able to punish with up to 15 years in prison the dissemination of messages from the gangs in the media, which limits the right to freedom of the press. Another controversial decision by Bukele was his commitment to bitcoin as legal tender in the country, despite the risks it implies for his fragile economy and the warnings from the International Monetary Fund.

Citizen opposition is “key”

Bukele, the second youngest president in all of Latin America and who defined himself on Twitter as the youngest president cool of the world, intends, in Marinero’s opinion, to perpetuate himself in power illegitimately through re-election, while recalling that “he has set aside institutions capable of exercising some type of control over political power.” In addition, in the country there are serious restrictions on the exercise of the press, attacks on independent journalists and a stigmatization of human rights defenders, “an authoritarianism that also includes the militarization of society and public management,” adds the constitutional expert.

The only remaining way to control power, in terms of democratic institutions, is elections, but doubts have also been raised about the independence and integrity of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, says the lawyer. “We are witnessing electoral fraud in slow motion and Bukele’s September 15 statement announcing his re-election is another step in that direction. This fraud will be consummated when the Supreme Electoral Tribunal registers Bukele’s candidacy next year”, he criticizes.

End of the democratic chapter

If in 2024 Bukele achieved victory in the presidential elections, it would mean “the end of this democratic chapter in El Salvador”, since everything indicates that his intention is to “tear down” the democracy that the country has been building after the peace agreements reached. in 1992, Marinero affects.

The lawyer goes further and already calls the Bukele government a dictatorship, although it is not consolidated, he says, like that of Daniel Ortega in Nicaragua. In his opinion, it is “an expanded and improved version of the most recent authoritarianisms that have traveled the Latin American region: Bukele has learned from the manual of Ortega, Hugo Chávez and Nicolás Maduro (of Venezuela), and Juan Orlando Hernández ( from Honduras)”. The president, he insists, “has the entire public apparatus at his disposal and there are worrying signs of the influence of the ruling party over the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.”



The promotion of the figure of Bukele by the Public Administration is evidenced at the exit of the San Salvador airport, where the portraits of the president and his wife Gabriela are displayed “as if they were figures of the Royal Family,” says Marinero, who assures that “everything revolves” around the president of this small country of just over six million inhabitants. “Officials continually talk about Bukele’s achievements and it seems that nothing exists in the country if he hasn’t ordered it before. The public apparatus shamelessly promotes his figure since the beginning of his government, and now the state propaganda will be aimed at promoting his candidacy for 2024 “, which leaves any political option at a disadvantage, says the lawyer.

Marinero trusts that Salvadoran citizens will not allow Bukele to “screw into power”, either by creating new political alternatives or by carrying out protests. However, he is aware that this possibility is also remote, since the young president continues to have high popularity -with approval levels that exceed 80%-, despite international criticism. “As a good populist and authoritarian, he deliberately confuses popularity with legitimacy, and supported by this, it seems that Bukele’s candidacy is unstoppable, as he begins to enjoy the public support of social and business sectors aligned with bukelism that try to justify re-election” , clarifies the president of the DTJ Foundation.

In fact, bukelismo has been very effective in “annihilating” the political opposition, “continually discrediting the political parties in front of the population and blaming them for all the ills of the country”, for this reason the possibilities that the traditional formations can win over Bukele are scarce, while the new ones are still small and would not be enough to oppose him individually, he concludes.



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