Nearly 70 percent of Salvadorans supported or expressed positive sentiments towards the election of President Nayib Bukele to a second consecutive term in 2024 despite the nation’s constitution explicitly forbidding it, according to a poll published on Tuesday by the Salvadoran newspaper La Prensa Gráfica.
The results of the poll, executed by the firm LPG Datos, the polling division of La Prensa Gráfica, showed that, out of the 1,500 respondents questioned between February 15 and 24, 68.3 percent supported or “expressed positive sentiment” towards Bukele being reelected. Only 13.1 percent said they opposed or had a negative opinion of Bukele’s re-election.
Most respondents did not appear to know that the Salvadoran constitution bans consecutive re-election for presidents. Asked if the constitution allows the immediate re-election of the president, 34.9 percent said yes, while only 24.9 percent said no. A similar number to those who supported Bukele for a second term, 67.9 percent, said their constitution should allow it.
Bukele, who took office in 2019, announced in September his intention to run for president again for a second consecutive term once his current five-year term ends on May 30, 2024, despite the fact that El Salvador’s constitution does not allow for an immediate reelection of a president after the end of their term. The constitution does allow a previously elected president to run for a second, non-consecutive term.
The highly popular Salvadoran president started March with an approval rate hovering around 92 percent — the highest in the region by a wide margin, largely as a result of his fierce crackdown on the country’s rampant gang violence that has, reports have shown, led to what appears to be a dramatic reduction in crime.
There are three articles in El Salvador’s constitution that refer to the matter of the country’s presidential terms and/or the prohibition against serving consecutive terms.
Article 152 of the Salvadoran constitution states that a person may not be candidate for president if they have “held the office of President of the Republic for more than six months, consecutive or not, during the immediately preceding period, or within the last six months prior to the beginning of the months prior to the beginning of the presidential term.”
Article 154 states: “The term of office of the President shall be five years and shall begin and end on the first day of June, and the person who has served as President shall not be able to continue in office for one more day.”
Article 75 of El Salvador’s Constitution states that “those who subscribe acts, proclamations or adhesions to promote or support the reelection or continuation of the President of the Republic, or use direct means to that end” will lose their rights as citizens.
In September 2021, the Supreme Court of Justice of El Salvador — whose top justices had all been replaced by the overwhelmingly pro-Bukele majority in Congress that year alongside the country’s attorney general — issued a controversial new interpretation of Article 152 of the Salvadoran constitution that paved the way for a possible Bukele reelection.
In its ruling, the Salvadoran top court argued that, while the constitution explicitly states that a person who has held office for more than six months “during the immediately preceding period” may not be a candidate for President, the prohibition is, according to them, directed to the candidates and not to the president. Thus, the ruling reasoned, a sitting president is able to run for a second consecutive five-year term so long as they resign six months before the end of their term.
The controversial ruling drew international criticism, including from the U.S. Department of State, which accused the court of undermining democracy.
Bukele explained his decision to seek reelection by arguing that “developed countries have reelection.”
“And thanks to the new configuration of the democratic institution of our country, now El Salvador will, too,” he continued.
When asked by La Prensa Gráfica for their reasons to allow the immediate reelection of the president, those who supported it answered that they supported work being done by the current president. Another reason provided was the assertion that voters should have the last word on who the president is, not written law, and that allowing immediate reelection may be useful for the continuation of some projects. Those that expressed their rejection of immediate reelection answered that the main reasons for their opinion were to support the constitution, to allow other candidates a chance to lead, that they believed a five-year term was enough for one person, and fears that allowing reelection could lead to a dictatorship.
As determined by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of El Salvador last year, the next presidential and legislative elections will take place on February 4, 2024. If a runoff election is required, it would then take place on March 3, 2024.
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