24 | JUL | 2019
Political outsider Nayib Bukele wins El Salvador’s presidential election
Nayib Bukele participates in a rally to close his election campaign in downtown San Salvador, El Salvador - Photo: José Cabezas/REUTERS

Political outsider Nayib Bukele wins El Salvador’s presidential election

05/02/2019
15:06
Reuters
San Salvador
Nelson Renteria & Noe Torres
-A +A
Bukele, a former mayor of the capital, won 53% of the vote with returns counted from 99.9% of polling stations, allowing him to clinch the presidency in the first round of voting

Salvadorans voiced hope for a changed country on Monday after political outsider Nayib Bukele won a sweeping victory in the presidential election with a pledge to tackle the corruption and violence plaguing the Central American nation.

Bukele, 37, a former mayor of the capital, San Salvador, won 53% of the vote with returns counted from 99.9% of polling stations, the national electoral tribunal said on Monday, allowing him to clinch the presidency in the first round of voting.

His emphatic victory in Sunday’s election was a stunning rebuke to the two political parties that had dominated El Salvador since its civil war, the ruling leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN) and its long-standing rival, the conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA).

Bukele’s promises to modernize government and his dynamic use of social media have energized young Salvadorans, eager for an end to the economic stagnation, poverty, and violence that have beset the nation of 6.5 million people following its vicious 1980-1992 civil war.

Bukele’s two rivals from the FMLN and ARENA quickly accepted defeat on Sunday evening.

Bukele must now contend with U.S. President Donald Trump’s frequent threats to cut aid to El Salvador—as well as to neighboring Guatemala and Honduras—if they do not do more to curb migration to the United States.

Gang violence has made El Salvador one of the world’s most murderous countries in the past few years, driving Salvadorans to flee to the north.

Among his campaign promises, Bukele, an avid social media user who snapped a selfie with supporters before declaring his win, said he would push infrastructure projects to limit migration.

He will face challenges, however, pursuing his reform agenda from a divided Congress and an onerous government deficit. Bukele’s allies have only 11 legislators in the 84-seat Congress.

Growing up, Bukele’s relatively wealthy family was sympathetic to the FMLN, the former leftist guerrilla army that became a political party at the end of the civil war.

But Bukele has turned away from Latin America’s traditional left, branding Venezuelan leader Nicolas Maduro and Nicaragua’s Daniel Ortega as well as conservative Honduran Juan Orlando Hernandez as dictators.

“A dictator is a dictator, on the ‘right’ or the ‘left,’” Bukele wrote last week on Twitter.

Although he was expelled from the FMLN in 2017, Bukele describes himself as from the left. As he sought the presidency, however, he joined a conservative party known as GANA, or “win” in Spanish.

Along with the goal of modernizing government, Bukele, who is set to take office in June, has proposed creating an international anti-corruption commission with the support of the United Nations, following similar committees in Guatemala and Honduras.

“We’ll create a (commission) ... so that the corrupt can’t hide where they always hide. Instead, they’ll have to give back what they stole,” Bukele said in January.

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