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

By Eddie Galdamez  | Updated on Oct 29th, 2023
President Nayib Bukele
President Nayib Bukele

The potential re-election of President Nayib Bukele continues to be a hot topic of discussion. President Bukele announced on September 15, 2022, that he would register as a candidate for the 2024 presidential elections.

New Ideas, the political party created by Bukele, held its internal elections in July 2023 and officially nominated Nayib Bukele as its presidential candidate. The political party dismissed objections from legal experts and the opposition, who say El Salvador’s constitution prohibits his candidacy.

On October 26, President Nayib Bukele registered as his party’s candidate to seek re-election in the country’s 2024 presidential elections, a controversial decision because, according to many, the Salvadoran constitution prohibits it.

Nayib Bukele’s Possible Re-election

Since Nayib Bukele announced that he would see a second presidential term, we have seen social media posts, read articles, and listened to experts giving their opinions on why President Bukele should seek re-election or why he shouldn’t. There are plenty of arguments on both sides, all of them valid.

Even the US embassy in El Salvador took a position on the issue in 2022; however, in 2023, the US government changed its rhetoric towards a second Bukele presidential term.

In fact, the day after Bukele registered as a presidential candidate with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), Brian A. Nichols, the US Assistant Secretary for Western Hemisphere Affairs, remarked that it was up to Salvadorans to decide whether Bukele should be re-elected.

Bukele is extremely popular among Salvadorans within the country and abroad; these supporters want to see Nayib Bukele as president for a second term. Bukele’s popularity will make it easier for him to win the 2024 elections. However, there are also many Salvadorans who vigorously oppose a re-election bid by 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 a president is elected on February 4, 2024.

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 for 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 ruling and register Nayib Bukele as a presidential candidate.

Furthermore, the Legislative Assembly passed a law that imposes a prison term of up to a 15-years on anyone who attempts to block the candidacy of a person who is lawfully qualified to run for office. Bukele’s opposition argues that this law is a threat to anyone who might think of trying to challenge Bukele’s legitimacy as a candidate

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 60,000 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 improved 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 1, 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.

Should President Bukele seek 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.

It is clear that President Bukele will likely win easily in the upcoming 2024 elections. The opposition appears disorganized and lacks a strong candidate to defeat Bukele in his bid for a second term.