Photo: Nayib Bukele and wife, Gabriela Rodriguez de Bukele
Approximately 700 Salvadorans voted electronically from inside the Belmopan Civic Center.
by Kristen Ku
BELIZE CITY, Mon. Feb. 5, 2024
El Salvador’s President, Nayib Bukele, has been re-elected, marking the first time a sitting president has won consecutive terms in the nation’s history.
Bukele’s triumph was announced following a landslide win where he claimed, “This is the victory with the biggest difference between first and second place in history.”
The streets of San Salvador were flooded with cyan blue as thousands of supporters celebrated the re-election of their 42-year-old leader, who has termed his victory a “referendum” on his government. With results showing Bukele receiving 83% support with 70% of ballots counted, he declared a win of over 85% of the vote before official results were confirmed.
Surprisingly, a significant portion of the votes that secured Bukele’s re-election came from abroad, with a notable turnout of Salvadoran nationals in Belize, especially from the Salvapan area of Belmopan. Many travelled from across Belize and neighbouring countries (a significant number came across the border from Melchor, Guatemala), to cast their votes at the Belmopan Civic Center, one of 81 remote voting centers established worldwide by the Salvadorian government to facilitate the electoral process for its citizens abroad. The ability to cast votes electronically attracted a large crowd, with the center bustling from 7:00 a.m. until the closing time at 5:00 p.m. yesterday, recording approximately 700 votes by the end of the day.
Bukele’s New Ideas party is expected to secure nearly all 60 seats in the legislative assembly, building his influence as one of the most powerful leaders in modern Salvadorean history.
This electoral landslide, as Bukele addressed his audience, was a clear endorsement of his iron-fisted security policies that have dramatically reduced gang-related violence in the country.
During his first term, Bukele introduced emergency measures, known as “the state of exception,” which suspended civil liberties and led to the arrest of over 75,000 people.
Despite criticisms from human rights organizations, the electorate overwhelmingly voted for the continuation of this security plan, which has liberated communities from the stifling control of gangs.
Despite his victory and popular support for his tough-on-crime approach, Bukele faces criticism for the potential breach of democracy and the mass incarceration of citizens.
Bukele has remained defiant against international criticism, including from western countries and rights groups that warn of democratic backsliding. His administration has also faced economic challenges, with the country experiencing slow growth and rising poverty rates during his tenure.
The President’s re-election could now pave the way for constitutional changes, with concerns that term limits might be reformed.
In his victory speech, Bukele promised, “El Salvador went from being the most unsafe [country] to the safest. Now in these next five years, wait to see what we are going to do.”