After Two Years of Posturing, El Salvador’s Bukele Must Now Govern

After Two Years of Posturing, El Salvador’s Bukele Must Now Govern
President Nayib Bukele prepares to cast his ballot at a polling station in San Salvador, El Salvador, Feb. 28, 2021 (AP photo by Salvador Melendez).

As expected, voters in El Salvador turned out overwhelmingly for President Nayib Bukele’s party in legislative and municipal elections last Sunday. Preliminary results suggested the Nuevas Ideas party, or New Ideas, had attained a two-thirds majority in the 84-seat Legislative Assembly, enough to pass laws and make key appointments without the support of other parties. While it remains uncertain whether Bukele and his allies will win the 63-seat supermajority that would allow them to limit certain constitutional rights of citizens, the vote is nonetheless transformative, paving the way for Bukele to govern with near-total control.

In addition to the legislative races, voters also selected representatives for 262 municipal councils and 20 seats in the Central American Parliament. The preliminary results showed that New Ideas will control at least 149 of the country’s municipalities, including the key prize of San Salvador, the capital, and many of the municipalities that surround it. Notably, the gender gap in the legislature has widened; only 24 women won seats in the assembly—the lowest level in the past three elections. Notably, only 16 of the 56 New Ideas lawmakers will be women.

Despite provocative and unfounded statements from Bukele that “massive fraud” was afoot, the legislative and municipal elections were procedurally unremarkable. While some polling stations saw delays and long lines due to COVID-19 restrictions, about 51 percent of registered voters turned out on Sunday—higher than recent legislative elections, but generally typical of midterm turnout.

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