San Salvador, El Salvador – Salvadorans are heading to the polls on Sunday to elect the nation’s 84-member Nationwide Meeting in a vote that civil society teams worry may destabilise the democratic order imposed by a 1992 peace accord that ended a 12-year civil conflict.
Voters will select 84 legislators to characterize them within the nationwide meeting for the subsequent three years, and polls present almost 70 % of voters favour president Nayib Bukele’s Nuevas Concepts celebration.
“I’m going to vote for [Nayib’s party] as a result of he has helped us quite a bit,” mentioned Wendy Henriquez, a 46-year-old avenue vendor who had by no means voted earlier than casting a poll for Bukele within the 2019 presidential elections.
She mentioned she is supporting candidates from his celebration as a result of she thinks the president is doing a superb job, citing pandemic help and a plan to provide all public college college students a pc as the federal government’s main accomplishments.
Whereas supporters of the president’s celebration are energised, civil society teams have raised issues the elections may velocity up the deterioration of the nation’s democratic establishments that they are saying started when Bukele took workplace.
“We haven’t seen such constant authoritarian behaviour for the reason that finish of the peace accords,” mentioned Luis Mario Rodriguez, director of Political Research for the Salvadoran Basis for the Social and Financial Improvement (FUSADES).
Two essential political events – right-wing ARENA and left-wing FMLN – have dominated Salvadoran politics for the reason that signing of the peace accords.
However their help has waned lately after a sequence of high-profile corruption scandals, leaving a gap for a populist candidate to win over disgruntled voters with guarantees of change.
In 2019, Bukele grew to become the primary candidate from outdoors these two events to win the presidency within the post-war interval and he has repeatedly downplayed the significance of the peace accords. The 39-year-old social media savvy chief campaigned on an anti-corruption platform and promised to rid the political system of an outdated order that pillaged public funds.
Relatively than concentrate on proposals of particular person candidates, Bukele has targeted on convincing voters to end up for his celebration in order that he can have sufficient seats to move laws with out opposition from conventional events, who he claims are corrupt.
Nuevas Concepts candidates have promised to deliver a brand new strategy to safety, schooling and unemployment, however many aren’t new faces in Salvadoran politics, and held public workplace as members of one other celebration.
Polls present no different celebration – of the 2 conventional ones and 6 others – will achieve far more than 5 % of the vote. Polls open at 7am native time (13:00 GMT) at almost 1,600 voting centres across the nation, and officers anticipate preliminary outcomes a couple of hours after polls shut at 5pm (23:00 GMT).
Although Bukele is just not up for re-election, which is prohibited by the Salvadoran structure, he has been campaigning for his celebration within the hopes of successful a majority or supermajority of legislators till his time period ends in 2025.
Because the peace accords, no celebration has received a easy majority of 43 seats within the meeting with out forming a coalition with legislators from different smaller events.
Since taking workplace in June 2019, human rights teams in El Salvador have warned of Bukele’s more and more authoritarian governing type. They’re notably frightened about his use of the armed forces, which performed a troubling function in El Salvador’s previous and carried out massacres in opposition to unarmed civilians throughout the civil conflict.
On February 9, 2020, Bukele entered the nationwide meeting with the armed forces to stress legislators to move a mortgage to help his safety plan.
Bukele has rejected and mocked criticisms about his governing type, saying he would have taken much more excessive motion like capturing his opponents if he really had been a dictator. He and his supporters have used the hashtag #QueBonitaDictadura (What a Lovely Dictatorship) on social media to focus on public work initiatives and different authorities initiatives.
When greater than 40 civil society teams approached candidates from all events to signal a letter committing to respecting democratic norms, no candidate for Nuevas Concepts signed on.
Many human rights teams and political analysts thought of the February 2020 episode a gown rehearsal for what’s to return.
“Voters assume that if Bukele behaves badly, they are going to right it with the subsequent election, nevertheless it’s doable that there received’t be one other election with the identical guidelines of the sport as clear as they’ve been for the reason that peace accords,” mentioned Salvadoran human rights defender Celia Medrano.
“The issue that’s at stake on February 28 is that this frustration received’t matter if he manages to manage all the pieces as a result of it would already be too late.”
Some voters say they need their vote to counteract this potential focus of energy.
“He desires to achieve an excessive amount of energy. If they’ve all the ability, they’re going to need to do no matter they need,” mentioned Daniel Pinos, a 41-year-old avenue vendor who plans to vote for opposition candidates from new events VAMOS and Nuestro Tiempo.
“If there are different events, it’s extra difficult. They’re not going to have the ability to do no matter they need.”
However most voters brush off critiques of Bukele and his authoritarian tendencies as political infighting or jealousy.
“Sadly, they (the normal events) haven’t accomplished issues the fitting means, and their stealing has come out throughout – within the radio, TV, and newspapers,” mentioned Nuevas Concepts voter Julio Munoz, a 56-year outdated vegetable vendor.
“They need to speak dangerous in regards to the president as a result of it fits them as a result of they’re going to lose they usually’re not going to be governing. It’s throughout for them.”
Nuevas Concepts supporter Roberto Antonio Linares, 52, mentioned he doesn’t need to see the federal government change into a dictatorship as a result of he remembers the hurt these governments do to the folks. However he doesn’t imagine Bukele is on that path.
“We’ll simply should see within the time that he governs if there isn’t any corruption that impacts the folks,” Linares mentioned.