Nayib Bukele of the Grand Alliance for National Unity (GANA), a center-right party, won the presidential elections held in El Salvador on February 3 with 53.78% of votes. Julio Olivo, the president of the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE), declared the victory of GANA after counting 87.7% of the total votes.
A coalition of the conservative right-wing represented by Carlos Calleja of the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA) secured 31% of votes. The socialist candidate, Hugo Martínez of the Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front (FMLN), received 14% of votes and the centrist candidate Josué Alvarado of Vamos obtained 0.8% of votes.
“We can announce with complete certainty that we have won the presidency of the Republic of El Salvador in the first round”, said Bukele, during a press conference.
According to data issued by the TSE, the level of abstention was very high. Out of the 5.2 million eligible voters, only 2.4 million cast their vote. The abstention rate of 55% was 15.4% more than that in the 2014 presidential elections, when the incumbent president, Salvador Sánchez Cerén (FMLN), was elected.
A total of 1,725 international inspectors from the European Union (EU), the Organization of American States (OAS) and the Inter-American Union of Electoral Organizations (UNIORE) were present throughout the country to observe and monitor the elections. No untoward incidents were reported.
Soon after the TSE’s announcement, both, the ARENA and the FMLN recognized Bukele’s victory.
Martínez said that the FMLN needed to do a “deep reflection” after the defeat. He also said the party would always defend progressive social programs. “We are willing to continue fighting for the commitments we made to thousands of Salvadorans”, he said.
Bukele will assume office on June 1 for a period of five years.
Who is Nayib Bukele?
Nayib is a 37-years-old politician and businessman, belonging to a well-off family in the country. He made his political debut with the FMLN in 2012, when he was elected mayor of a small town. In 2015, he won the municipal elections and was elected mayor of the capital San Salvador, again as a representative of the FMLN.
In 2017, Bukele was expelled from the FMLN for promoting internal divisions and making statements against the government and the FMLN.
After his expulsion, Bukele announced that he would seek a candidacy to end “bipartisanship”, an idea that was spread enthusiastically by his campaign, but which is far from reality. Renowned politician Álvaro Artiga pointed out that in El Salvador, there is no bipartisanship but “polarized pluralism” and that with Bukele’s victory, it would become “moderate political pluralism”.
Bukele initially attempted to form a new party, but he could not finish with the registration process on time, so he had to end up contesting on behalf of with GANA, a party that emerged from a split of the ARENA.
Bukele’s association with OAS secretary general Luis Almargo and his criticisms of the democratically elected government of Venezuela represents a new turn to the right in the region.
The entire region is closely watching what changes he will bring in the name of putting an end to the traditional two-party system. The FMLN government introduced a number of progressive measures and public programs such as agricultural and land programs for peasants, free healthcare and education for all, free meals and milk for school children, pensions for the elderly, punishment for sexist violence etc. It remains to be seen if Bukele will continue supporting these programs.