El Salvador politics. Getting ready for the 2021 elections.

By Eddie Galdamez
Friday, August 14th, 2020
El Salvador politics

In 2020, El Salvador Politics are on display around the world. Politics in El Salvador seem to be in crisis. There are disagreement and fighting between branches of the government, but that is normal Salvadoran politics.

El Salvador politics, especially politicians, are in a pre-election mode, this means that they are making all types of efforts to make other politicians look bad. In the process, they don’t care how the world sees the politics in El Salvador.

The following is my take on politics in El Salvador. I consider myself an independent Salvadoran person who does not have a political affiliation. I cast my personal vote for the individual and not the political party.

Is El Salvador in a political crisis in 2020?

Yes, it is! However, this is nothing new as we are eight months away from an election. What seems like a political crisis is just political parties or politicians doing everything that they can to make their opponents look bad.

To many outsiders, it might look like El Salvador has a severe political crisis; however, most Salvadorans see it as just politicians doing what they usually do before an election.

The politicians or political parties in control are doing everything that they can to hold on to the power that they have or to increase it. On the other hand, the newcomers are doing what they can to win seats and have more influence. It is just politics as usual, before an election, in El Salvador.

Nayib Bukele vs the Legislative Assembly.

Right now, there is a confrontation happening between the executive branch of President Nayib Bukele and the legislative branch, which is controlled by the political parties ARENA and FMLN.

Both political parties, ARENA, and the FMLN are doing their best to keep control of the legislative Assembly. President Bukele along with New Ideas, GANA, and other political parties want to take that control away from them.

The political issues or political crisis, if you want to call it that, is more visible because of the coronavirus in El Salvador pandemic. If it weren’t because of the pandemic shading light on politics, things might seem less out of control.

Nayib Bukele vs the Salvadoran Supreme Court.

The Nayib Bukele administration and the Salvadoran Supreme Court or Salvadoran constitutional chamber are fighting each other at the moment.

The Salvadoran Supreme Court has declared every decree enacted by the executive to fight the COVID-19 pandemic unconstitutional.

In every occasion that the supreme court has ruled against the executive branch, the president has accepted the decision.

Nevertheless, he has said, on many occasions, that the Supreme Court is ruling in favor of the Legislative Assembly to make him look bad; and also, to help the FMLN and ARENA parties get reelected.

Who is right, and who is wrong? Well, the answer will vary depending on who you ask the question to, and their political affiliation. If you go by what the recent polls reveal, then president Nayib Bukele is the one correct.

Undoubtedly, this political crisis will continue until election day. At which point, we will find out the new dynamic of political power in the country.

Why are the 2021 elections so important?

The upcoming 2021 elections in El Salvador are of greater importance as it could signal a significant shift in Salvadoran politics.

For example, the traditional political parties, FMLN and ARENA, that have governed El Salvador for 30 years could lose control of the Legislative branch.

Since 1990, ARENA and the FMLN have had control of the legislative and executive branches of the government.

In 2019, they lost control of the executive branch to President Nayib Bukele. Now, in the upcoming 2021 elections, they are at risk of losing control of the Legislative Branch.

If the results of the elections are as they are being predicted by all significant polls. President Nayib Bukele and the New Ideas’ political party could have control of two branches of government.

Now, is it good for the traditional political parties to lose the Legislative branch or for Nayib Bukele to have control of both branches? Well, once again, the answer varies depending on who you ask.

All I can predict is that the next few months are going to be crazy in politics in El Salvador.

Current outlook for the upcoming 2021 elections.

The current outlook for the upcoming 2021 elections is good for President Nayib Bukele and its allies, such as New Ideas, GANA, and CD. The popularity of President Nayib Bukele among Salvadorans has been kept at over 75%, which is excellent for its political party.

Asamblea Legislativa de El Salvador
Legislative Assembly

Also, many major polling organizations are predicting that Nuevas Ideas, after the 2021 elections, will be the number one political force in El Salvador. These polling organizations also predicted that Nayib Bukele was going to win the presidential election in 2019.

On the other hand, things are not looking so good for the traditional parties FMLN and ARENA. Recent polling shows that the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly and its members are detested by the majority of Salvadorans.

It is not set in stone as to who will win the legislative branch in 2021; however, the current outlook does not look that good for the traditional political parties.

This is why ARENA and the FMLN are in trouble.

Both the FMLN and ARENA are in trouble when it comes to getting people to accept their messages or to believe what they are saying.

Based on recent polling, people perceive both parties as corrupted and not looking out for the average Salvadoran.

One reason as to why both political parties, FMLN and ARENA, are in trouble is Nayib Bukele. President Nayib Bukele gave Salvadoran a new political option, something that Salvadorans didn’t have in the last 30 years.

Additionally, the traditional political parties are in trouble because of the corruption of their past presidents and politicians.

ARENA El Salvador Political party


The ARENA administrations of Paco Flores and Tony Saca are examples of this corruption. Paco Flores admitted that money destined to help victims of an earthquake end up in the hands of ARENA. Also, Tony Saca is in jail, serving a sentence for stealing money from the nation.

Furthermore, the videos of Norman Quijano and Ernesto Muyshondt sitting down with gang members during the 2014 presidential election does not help the current situation of the party.



The FMLN administrations of Mauricio Funes and Salvador Sanchez Ceren are tied to corruption as well. Mauricio Funes is a fugitive living in Nicaragua under the protection of Daniel Ortega.

The Salvador Sanchez Ceren administration has members of the FMLN in trouble with the Salvadoran Justice, for example, Sigfrido Reyes is in Mexico out of the reach of Salvadoran justice.

Also, Munguia Payees, defense minister for both FMLN presidents, is currently in house arrest awaiting trial for different charges.

In politics, perception is reality. Right now, the perception that the majority of Salvadoran have of ARENA and the FMLN is not good.

Current political strategies.

Each political party or alliance has a message about the opposition that they want the population to perceive. Every TV spot, tweet, or comment that they make goes towards emphasizing the strategy.

New Ideas political party

Strategy against the FMLN and ARENA.

The messages or strategies that these political parties want to emphasize against ARENA and the FMLN are simplistic.

Basically, they want to emphasize that ARENA and the FMLN are corrupted and that they don’t care for the average Salvadoran.

Strategy against ARENA.

Selling the idea that ARENA is corrupted is not going to be difficult as there is plenty of material to use. For instance, there are the ex-presidents Tony Saca and Paco Flores with all the money that they stole.

There are the illegal bonuses “Sobresuldos” that the ex-presidents pay to many ARENA people. Some of these people who receive these illegal bonuses are seeking re-election.

There are the videos of Norman Quijano and Ernesto Muyshondt meeting with gang members and giving them money.

Additionally, selling the idea that ARENA doesn’t care for average Salvadorans is not that difficult, there is plenty of material as well.

There are the decisions ARENA has taken about COVID-19; it will not be hard to emphasize that ARENA cares more about money than the health of Salvadorans.

There is Velasques Parker saying that it will be a blessing when El Salvador gets COVI-19; also, there is Rodrigo Avila saying that the Virus was just heavy flu “Gripon.”

There is Claudia de Avila calling people who follow Nayib Bukele dogs. Also, Norman Quijano saying that every person who says things negative about him are trolls paid by Bukele.

Undoubtedly, there is plenty of material that Nuevas Ideas, GANA, and CD can use to make ARENA look that they are corrupted and that they don’t care about the average Salvadoran.

Strategy against the FMLN

Emphasizing that the FMLN is corrupted is not hard to do. There is plenty of material from the Mauricio Funes and Salvador Sánchez Cerén administrations.

There is the money Funes allegedly stole. Also, there is Sigfrido Reyes and the money he supposedly took as well.

There is the power plant El Chaparral and the millions of dollars that can’t be accounted for. There is money missing that was assigned to building hospitals and roads.

Also, there are videos of FMLN high ranking members meeting with gang members. There is the infamous truce between gans where the FMLN government gave control of the jails to gang members.

Furthermore, selling the idea that the FMLN doesn’t care for average every day Salvadorans is not that difficult either, there is plenty of material as well.

They were in power for 10 years and didn’t take care of the FMLN ex-guerrilla fighters. They made changes to the pension system, where the average Salvadoran got even less money. There are the comments vice-president Oscar Ortiz made about police officer’s salaries.

Indeed, the opposition has plenty of material to make the FMLN look corrupted and out of touch with the average Salvadoran.

ARENA strategy against Nayib Bukele and his allies.

As of right now, it seems that the ARENA strategy against Nayib Bukele is to keep attacking him with one of the following lines, hoping that his popularity with the general population declines.

  • Bukele and his administration are not being transparent with the money.
  • The new El Salvador hospital is a money pit.
  • He is a dictator that wants total control.
  • He doesn’t want to open a dialogue with us.
  • The economy is in bad shape because of his decisions.
  • He doesn’t listen to experts when it comes to the pandemic “Colegio Medico.”
  • Nayib Bukele is improvising, he does not have a plan to fight COVID-19.
  • He is attacking reporters and the press.
  • He is paying trolls to attack opponents or people that disagree with him.

The good thing about using this strategy is that it can keep the ARENA hardcore base motivated; therefore, they will continue to support the candidates and also can show up to vote.

The bad thing about the strategy is that it can alienate potential voters. Listing things that the current government might be doing wrong might not be enough to get undecided voters to vote for them.

FMLN strategy against Nayib Bukele and his allies.

The FMLN strategy against Nayib Bukele and New Ideas is a more direct approach than ARENA. Some members of the FMLN are flat out saying that there is corruption in the Bukele administration. Also, they are trying to emphasize President Bukele as a dictator that wants total control.

The rest of the lines that the FMLN are using against Bukele are similar to ARENA. The focus is on the transparency of money being used and the amount of money being spent.

My point of view on El Salvador Politics.

The following are my point of views on El Salvador politics. Keep in mind that I am making them as a regular Salvadoran and not as a professional political analyst.

Should Nayib Bukele have absolute power?

My point of view is that Nayib Bukele should not have total control of the government. However, I believe that the opposition in the Legislative Assembly should be completely different than what it is right now.

I want to see an intelligent opposition to Nayib Bukele that looks out for Salvadorans, just as much as the president is doing. There is not worrying on my part that President Bukele will become a Nicolas Maduro o Daniel Ortega at all. I just believe that an intelligent opposition will help the country grow even faster and better.

Personally, I would like that 70 of the current DIPUTADOS not to serve in the Salvadoran congress anymore. Also, I would like to see more independent candidates that have no affiliation with political parties.

Can ARENA survive the upcoming elections?

Well, it all depends on what your definition of survival is. I believe that ARENA will remain as a political party with at least 20 congressmen or Diputados in the General Assembly.

Personally, I think ARENA is going to take a big hit because of the actions they are taking in 2020, the job that Nayib Bukele is doing, and the fact that ARENA does not have a clear message on why people should vote for them.

The actions and decisions of ARENA in 2020.

The actions and decisions that ARENA is taking in the Legislative Assembly seem more political than anything else.

For example, in the past, any loan that was given to the government required two steps. Now, since Bukele became president, a third approval from the Legislative Assembly is required.

This third approval requires that the government clearly tells them how and where the money is going to be used.

The questions that I have are why are they demanding this now and not in previous administrations? Why are they only requesting this step from the central government and not from the municipal governments?

It seems to me that every action that ARENA is taking right now is politically motivated, and it will not help them win the undecided votes.

The job Nayib Bukele is doing.

Like it or not, Nayib Bukele is doing a fantastic job when it comes to security and managing the pandemic.

Under the Bukele administration, El Salvador has had the lowest murder rate since 1990. How can ARENA argue against that?

Even with all the noise that ARENA is making saying that Bukele is not managing the pandemic the right way and that there are signs of corruption regarding public funds.

How can ARENA argue against the fact that over 85% of the population thinks that President Bukele is managing the pandemic correctly.

Also, if there are signs of corruption, why aren’t they denouncing them with the Attorney General instead of just talking about.

ARENA’s clear message on why vote for them

The base of ARENA is going to vote for them, no matter what. But, what reason are they giving to independent voters or undecided people to vote for them? I spend 3 hours watching videos and reading messages from prominent ARENA members.

I didn’t see or hear a precise reason as to why I should vote for ARENA. The only reason I found was that President Bukele should not have all the power.

If the only message ARENA has as to why I should vote for them is that Bukele should not have all the government, they are in trouble!

Can the FMLN survive?

The FMLN is so unpopular that I see them as the biggest loser in the upcoming 2021 election. The main reason for their decline is corruption and credibility.


The left-wing political party has too many cases open related to corruption. Even though the people seeking reelection does not have open cases themselves, the opposition is going to make them look as if the entire political party is corrupted.

How can the FMLN affirm that the Bukele administration is corrupted if they don’t have a single case of corruption open? What moral authority does the FMLN have to question others, while ex-president Funes is hiding in Nicaragua, Sigfrido Reyes in Mexico, and now el Chaparral?


Why should I believe that the FMLN is looking out for the average Salvadoran. During the last 10 years, they didn’t do much for Salvadorans. They didn’t take care of workers when they made changes to the pension plan; also, they didn’t even take care of their own ex-guerrilla fighters.

I believe that the FMLN has too many cases of corruption open and that they don’t have enough credibility to remain as the second political power in the Legislative Assembly.

El Salvador politics in 2020.

Because of the upcoming 2020 elections, the politics in El Salvador might seem in a crisis; nevertheless, it is just a normal cycle in Politics in El Salvador.

However, because this upcoming election can mark an immense shift in politics in El Salvador, they are going to be highly contested.