According to the latest polls of intention to vote, the legislative elections in El Salvador, scheduled for Sunday (28), indicate a strengthening of the party of center-right President Nayib Bukele, 39 years old.
More than 5.8 million Salvadorans are expected in the polling stations (voting is compulsory), to elect the 84 members of the unicameral legislature, in addition to the 262 mayors.
With a high popularity of 97%, according to the Gallup Institute, Bukele hopes to win a majority in Congress with the new Nuevas Ideas, which has a voting intention of 64.7%.
If the polls are confirmed, there will also be a significant shrinkage of the country’s two traditional parties, the right-wing arena and the left-wing FMLN (Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front). So far, the two have accounted for over 70% of seats in parliament. Now the projections say they won’t even get 10%, together.
Both sides have dominated the Salvadoran political scene since the peace agreement that ended the country’s civil war in 1992.
Although he started the army at the FMLN, Bukele is now tackling the two legends. When he was elected, with 53% of the vote, he bet on the narrative of being an outsider and relied on criticism from the leadership of both parties – which has left several corruption scandals, some with condemnation and others on trial.
While Arena is the right-wing party originally formed by those who fought to defend the military regime, the FMLN grew out of the guerrillas who opposed it. The conflict has claimed more than 75,000 lives and remains a trauma in society.
So far, Bukele’s management has been controversial. Its action against the coronavirus pandemic is energetic and has borne fruit, the violence of the “maras” (criminal factions) has diminished. The number of homicides has decreased by 60% and, as a result, increased support for him, especially in rural areas, which are most affected by violence. Corruption investigations by previous governments have also made progress.
On the other hand, Bukele was accused of human rights violations during the pandemic, of installing sequestration centers for people suspected of infection or having had contact with an infected person. Localized quarantines have been applied to quell protests against the government.
Independent newspapers which publicized these abuses have been persecuted or threatened. The El Faro website, the country’s largest, is being sued for publicly denouncing the nepotism of the Bukele government and its irregular actions in enforcing quarantine measures.
“A victory for Bukele’s party in this election will mean its control of the three powers. It already has the executive and part of the judiciary, it will also have the legislature,” political scientist Oscar Picardo told Folha.
The majority of opposition to date in Congress has prevented Bukele from completing some reforms related to public spending and pensions. The president would also like to call a constitutional referendum, but the current parliament has prevented it. With a majority aligned with him, it will also be possible for Bukele to appoint Supreme Court justices and the attorney general, knowing he would have the approval of members of Congress.
There is no lack of voices who consider that this would be a step forward by the executive on the institutions and an authoritarian position taken by the current president. For Carlos Dada, journalist at El Faro, the country is living “a paradox of democratic representation. Through the vote, a legitimate democratic mechanism, citizens open the door to corrupt and undemocratic regimes”.
For José Miguel Vivanco, director for the Americas at Human Rights Watch, Bukele “follows the scenario of the creation of the classic populist, dividing citizens between staunch supporters and enemies, intimidating opponents”.
For Picardo, however, the political class that has so far ruled El Salvador is responsible for what is happening. “Bukele will win without fraud, because fraud is not necessary. People want it. They will vote for their party because they feel included, welcomed by basic food baskets, by social plans, by the fall. violence, which has never happened in the country.The governments of Arena and the FMLN, with the addition that these, in addition to that, were corrupt, ”he summarizes.
Bukele had previously signaled that he wanted control of the legislature when, in February 2020, accompanied by the military, surrounded the building and sat in the chair of the president of the house. “Bukele is guided by the spectacle, communicates well on the networks. He was not going to take the Legislature by force that day, it is enough to broadcast this program to scare him. From now on, he will enter Congress by the system. judicial “, explains Picardo.
The pandemic is the main concern of Salvadorans, according to a survey by the Fundaungo institute. The country has about 60,000 cases and 1,841 deaths, according to data from Johns Hopkins University.
And the health crisis has had a major impact on the economy, which has an informal market of nearly 60%. The contraction of Salvadoran GDP was 8.6% in 2020 and there was a loss of 70,000 jobs.