El Salvador's Bukele declares victory in presidential poll

El Salvador
# 05 February 2024 10:58 (UTC +04:00)

President Nayib Bukele on Sunday declared himself winner of El Salvador's national elections in a landslide, claiming he captured more than 85% of the vote - even though electoral officials have not released any results, APA reports citing Reuters.

Bukele was the heavy favorite to win another five-year term as voters largely cast aside concerns about erosion of democracy to reward him for a fierce gang crackdown that improved security in the Central American country.

Bukele, 42, said his New Ideas party also captured at least 58 positions in El Salvador's 60-seat legislative assembly, citing unspecified information that he had access to.

"A record in the entire democratic history of the world," Bukele said on X, the social media site. "See you at 9pm in front of the National Palace."

Electoral officials have not commented on the results yet. Polls closed at 5 p.m. (2300 GMT), about two hours before Bukele claimed victory. An exit poll by CID Gallup put Bukele's support at 87%.

Bukele now appears poised to become the first Salvadoran president in almost a century to be re-elected. If his predictions are accurate, he will wield unprecedented power and be able to overhaul El Salvador's constitution, which his opponents fear will result in scrapping of term limits.

Wildly popular, Bukele has campaigned on the success of his security strategy under which authorities suspended civil liberties to arrest more than 75,000 Salvadorans without charges. The detentions led to a sharp decline in nationwide murder rates and transformed a country of 6.3 million people that was once among the world's most dangerous.

But some analysts have said the mass incarceration of 1% of the population is not sustainable long-term.

Hours earlier, bullish Bukele held a press conference and said his party needed all the support it could muster to maintain its anti-gang fight and continue reshaping El Salvador.

"So, if we have already overcome our cancer, with metastases that were the gangs, now we only have to recover and be the person we always wanted to be," said Bukele. "I believe El Salvador, after half a century of suffering now it is our time to move forward."

Few doubted the outcome of the elections. Polls showed most voters appear set to reward Bukele for decimating the crime groups that made life intolerable in El Salvador and fueled waves of migration to the United States.

"We have to continue the changes that are happening in our country - positive changes. We have no crime, tourism has sky-rocketed," said construction worker Victor Lopez, 65, who was among the first people to vote at the same center where Bukele cast his ballot.

"We cannot let the corrupt people from before have power again," Lopez added.

Pre-election polling put support in the single digits for the candidates of FMLN and ARENA, two parties that held power between them until 2019, with voters fed up after decades of traditional politics marked by violence and corruption.