Opinion: President Bukele’s possible re-election continues to be a hot topic of discussion

By Eddie Vasquez  |  Aug 23rd, 2022
President Nayib Bukele
President Nayib Bukele

Even though the next presidential elections in El Salvador will not take place until February 3rd, 2024, and president Nayib Bukele hasn’t said anything about seeking re-election, the idea of potential re-election of Bukele continues to be a hot topic of discussion.

Day in and day out, we see social media posts, read articles, and listen to experts giving their opinions on why President Bukele should seek re-election or why he shouldn’t; even the US embassy in El Salvador took a position on the issue. There are plenty of arguments on both sides, all of them valid.

The possible re-election of Bukele is supported by some and rejected by others. Bukele is extremely popular among Salvadorans within the country and abroad; they do want to see Nayib Bukele as president for a second term. However, many Salvadorans vigorously oppose the possible re-election bid of the president.

Salvadorans are not the only ones sharing their opinion on this issue. Many local and international organizations such as Cristosal, Accion Ciudadana, UCA, human rights watch, and others continue to talk or take a position on this already hot topic. According to their publications or opinions, they downright oppose Bukele’s re-election.

This hot topic will continue to be discussed passionately by individuals and organizations until President Bukele decides about seeking a second term or not.

Can Bukele seek Re-election?

According to a September 2021 ruling by the Magistrates of El Salvador’s Constitutional Chamber, the current president can register as a presidential candidate in the upcoming 2024 elections. This ruling authorizes Nayib Bukele to run for a second term.

The Constitutional Chamber magistrates affirmed that it should be up to “the people” to decide if a president should or shouldn’t serve for consecutive terms. Bukele’s only requirement to register as a candidate is to resign from the presidential office six months before election day.

The Salvadoran Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), the highest authority in El Salvador’s election matters, has to abide by the ruling of the Salvadoran Constitutional chamber; they have no other option but to accept the re-election ruling.

Why do Salvadorans want Nayib Bukele to serve a second term?

Salvadorans who want Nayib Bukele as president for a second term believe he is doing a good job as president. They feel represented by him and believe he is looking out for all Salvadorans. Surveys taken over the last three years show the large support Bukele has in the country.

Security is one of the main reasons Salvadorans think Bukele is doing a good job. There is no denying that the Bukele administration has significantly reduced homicides in the country. The Salvadoran homicide rate has reached record lows during the Bukele administration.

In 2022, Salvadoran security forces began implementing the State of Exception, a direct attack on gangs by the Bukele administration. This security measure went into effect in late March after a spike in homicides. The State of Exception measure has resulted in many days with zero homicides; also, it has left over 50,000 alleged gang members in jail awaiting trial.

Even though the polemic State of Exception stops some constitutional rights and is criticized regularly for arbitrary arrests and human rights violations, it has the approval of most Salvadorans. The last surveys conducted by La Presa Grafica and IUDOP show this approval rate.

The sense of security and the resentment Salvadorans feel towards the previous FMLN and ARENA administrations are two reasons why Salvadorans want to see Bukele serve a second term.

Why do Salvadorans oppose a second term by Nayibi Bukele?

Those who oppose a possible second Presidential term believe that Nayib Bukele does not have the right to seek a second term. To them, the Salvadoran constitution explicitly prohibits presidential re-election.

Bukele’s opposition sees him as an authoritarian president who wants total control. Right now, Bukele controls the executive, and his political party “New Ideas” took control of the Legislative branch on May 1st, 2021.

During the first legislative session, the newly elected congress removed the five magistrates of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Judicial Court and immediately elected new magistrates.

According to Bukele’s opposition, the newly elected magistrates gave President Bukele control of all three branches of government. These new magistrates are the ones that ruled out in favor of re-election.

Another reason some people don’t like the president is his antagonistic nature. Bukele, on many occasions, has used harsh words against the press, the opposition, international organizations, and government officials. His governing style has put his administration on a contentious path with the United States.

Lastly, those who don’t want to see Bukele’s second term believe he is not doing anything for the country; to them, it is all a smoke screen to hide his administration’s corruption and ineptitude. The Bukele administration has not released information regarding spending during the COVID-19 pandemic or the Bitcoin implementation.

Authoritarian tendencies, corruption, attack on democracy, intolerance of critics, separation of powers, and Bitcoin are some of the most common reasons people who opposed re-election give regarding a possible second term of Nayib Bukele.

Is it a good idea to have re-election?

Objectively, that is not an easy question to answer. Those who want to see Bukele run for a second term are happy with the country’s direction. At the same time, those who oppose re-election are clear that a Bukele second term will mean a complete deterioration of democracy in the country.

It is not up to me to decide which side is right or wrong as both sides have compelling arguments; as a Salvadoran, I have an opinion on the issue that, at least for now, I will keep to myself.

One thing is for sure, if Bukele decides to seek a second term, he will win it easily. The opposition doesn’t seem organized and does not have a strong candidate that can defeat Bukele in 2024.


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