The recent legislative and municipal elections in El Salvador seem to consolidate the end of the bipartisanship that has prevailed in the country since 1992. The newborn Nuevas Ideas party has won a majority of municipalities and an unprecedented parliamentary majority for the young democracy.
This result completely rethinks the power scheme and consolidates the leadership of Nayib Bukele, the populist president who replaces press conferences with Facebook lives and hates dealing with the opposition. After the results, it will be he and his loyal deputies who will legislate on the nation for the next three years.
The election was linked to presidential proselytism as seldom seen in Central America. Slogans like “we should all tag #NDeNayib”, even Bukele’s ubiquitous media urging people to vote for his party were some of the main marks of campaign proselytism. A harbinger of his unquestionable intentions to control the Salvadoran political system without counterbalance.
With two-thirds of the so-called Sala Azul, Bukele will be able to extend the reach of his influence, starting in May, in a country plagued by poverty, organized crime, migration and government corruption. This supermajority will have profound implications and will affect the historical image of legislative power, the center of popular disaffection with the mainstream political class.
Both the left of the Frente Farabundo Martí party (FMLN) and the right of the Republican National Alliance party (ARENA) were relegated to the rank of parliamentary minority with no room for maneuver for the next three years.
What does a two-thirds majority mean?
With this result, Nayib Bukele will enjoy parliamentary support that no other Salvadoran president has had since the end of the civil war. This majority in the unicameral Legislative Assembly would allow Nuevas Ideas, Bukele’s party, to adopt laws, international treaties, to appoint three of the five magistrates of the Supreme Electoral Court, to elect the attorney general and the public prosecutor for upholding unrestricted human rights and approving budgets, the epicenter of the fiercest political tensions since his first year in office. All this without requiring the support of other benches.
As for a possible and viable scenario of constitutional reform, although the Constitution itself proposes “stony clauses” such as the territory, the form of government, the alternation and the express prohibition of consecutive re-elections, since the end of 2020, Bukele himself has been referred to his intentions of proposing “structural changes” to Magna Carta. The details are not yet fully known, however, all indications are that these will be among the first items on the parliamentary agenda of the new legislature.
Threats to facts
So far, the government’s plan, the five-year plan, territorial control, education or health are unknown. This suggests that the presidential and parliamentary agendas are likely to be the same, thus removing any form of parliamentary autonomy and control from the exercise of government.
A situation that has only the national precedent of the Christian Democratic Party (PDC) of Napoleon Duarte in 1985, or the current Nicaragua of Daniel Ortega or Venezuela of Nicolás Maduro.
The rejection of any political agreement also raises fears that threats against its opponents will become fact. Since coming to power, Nayib Bukele has brought all kinds of accusations and attacks against his rivals, initially in the form of tweets and televised statements.
However, last year’s military and police foray into the Blue Room to lobby for parliamentary approval of the defense budget exceeded all democratic limits. This foray, in addition to remembering old images of political violence and growing hostility, made it clear that he only recognizes political actions that are consistent with his decision.
Despite his questionable methods against organized crime, nepotism in public administration, threats against the independent press, and abuses to impose social distancing measures on its citizens, none of this seemed to deter its growing electorate.
In fact, according to different studies, since 2016, citizenship has maintained a sustained negative opinion on democracy and open preferences for the establishment of a non-democratic regime, as revealed by the studies of Latinobarómetro.
This is due to fatigue with a political sphere mainly involved in corruption cases, where, with the exception of ex-president Sánchez Cerén, the three previous presidents were involved in legal proceedings.
In short, we see a nation confer – democratically – the keys of its destiny to a populist leader who will be free from all restrictions and without democratic control of his mandate over the next three years. This new parliamentary majority leaves the country without deliberative autonomy, plurality or contestation for Nayib Bukele, the new legislative president of Central America.
Spanish translation by Maria Isabel Santos Lima
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