Former mayor wins presidential election in El Salvador

By Daniel Hurley
Staff Correspondent

Nayib Bukele, former mayor of El Salvador’s capital of San Salvador, was elected as the country’s president in a landslide victory on Feb. 3, The Guardian reported.  With more votes than the two major competing parties combined, Bukele’s victory ended a quarter of a century of two-party dominance in El Salvador.

Bukele pledges to fight cronyism and political corruption (Flickr).

Speaking to a crowd of supporters of Bukele’s Great National Alliance party, the president-elect exclaimed that his election is a victory for the Salvadoran public above anything else, NBC News reported. Running on a platform to end corruption and gang violence, create jobs and crack down on crime, Bukele garnered enough support to surpass the 50 percent threshold to win the election.

Making his political debut as mayor of San Salvador in 2012, Bukele was automatically considered to be a potential presidential contender. Despite a large base of popular support, Bukele’s stark criticism of the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front party got him expelled from the party, which led to him becoming the unlikely leader of the small, conservative Grand Alliance for National Unity party, according to NBC News.

Since 1992, the FMLN and Nationalist Republican Alliance parties dominated Salvadorian politics. However, both parties have been subject to corruption scandals in recent years, providing an opening for the GANA party to position itself as the choice for reformers.

Although he has won the election, the question now is whether Bukele will be able to accomplish what he promised his supporters during the election cycle. With his party holding only 10 seats in the Legislative Assembly, which is short of the 43 votes needed to pass any legislation, it is now a priority for Bukele to seek allies.

One of his central campaign promises is to establish an international commission to investigate official corruption, according to the Brookings Institution. However, this policy item is unlikely to garner support from the FMLN or ARENA, according to NBC News.

Despite the obstacles that might lie ahead for Bukele, his election brings a renewed hope to a country and region that has been plagued by poverty, authoritarian rule and crime. Time will tell whether Bukele is able to institute the reforms necessary to bring the kind of prosperity to El Salvador that he promised. At the moment, though, a historic chapter in Salvadoran political history is being written.

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