The president of El Salvador, Nayib Bukele, has registered his candidacy to run in next year’s elections, confirming his intentions to be reelected in office despite the fact that a consecutive term is expressly prohibited by the Constitution of the Central American country. Bukele, who has held the presidency since 2019, has registered the current vice-president, Félix Ulloa, as his running mate. Both politicians will represent the New Ideas party, a formation created by Bukele and which now dominates Congress. The Salvadoran president has thus dispelled the few remaining doubts as to whether he was willing to defy the constitutional text with his plans to remain in office.
Bukele filed his registration request before the Supreme Electoral Tribunal at the stroke of midnight Thursday, surrounded by hundreds of supporters. “It will be the Salvadoran people who decide if they want reelection,” the president said through a loudspeaker. “The Salvadoran people will decide if they want to continue being the safest country on the continent or if we want to go back to being the most insecure country in the world, as previous governments left it,” he added. Bukele has used his radical anti-gang policy, a strategy questioned by human rights organizations, as a banner for re-election. “Five more, five more!” chanted the president’s supporters, in reference to the number of years the presidential term lasts. “Re-election, re-election!” they also clamored.
Bukele’s plans were endorsed by the Constitutional Chamber, a body controlled by the president with judges who are appointed by him. Although Article 152 of the Constitution prohibits consecutive mandates, the chamber elaborated an interpretation of the text that allows a sitting president to participate in the elections if he is separated from office at least six months before the vote. Bukele has followed it to the letter. If he wins the elections, which is highly likely given his enormous popularity, he will go down in history as the first president to extend his term in office since the return of democracy to El Salvador.
Bukele — who has gone to great lengths to assure Salvadorans he is not a dictator — has implemented an iron fist policy against the powerful Salvadoran gangs, Mara Salvatrucha 13 and Barrio 18, and has managed to reduce homicides to a minimum. The strategy is based on a state of emergency that has been in force since March 2022. More than 71,000 people, allegedly gang members, have been arrested and imprisoned. Thousands of these are innocent and have no connection to criminal organizations, as denounced by human rights organizations. Bukele’s campaign has given Salvadorans back some peace on the ashes of civil guarantees and liberties. The president is now offering his citizens another five years of that policy.
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