Why might Bukele be a candidate in El Salvador’s presidential election in 2024?

(CNN Spanish) — El Salvador President Nayib Bukele is contesting elections this Sunday, despite the fact that, according to critics, the country’s constitution prohibits consecutive presidential terms.

In December 2023, the Legislative Assembly approved Bukele’s request for permission to leave office for six months to focus on campaigning for re-election in 2024.

In 2021, the country’s supreme court ruled that Bukele could run for a second term, but he must step down six months before the new term begins.

Sometime later, in July 2023, the Nuevas Ideas Party held its primaries and he was the only candidate.

The controversy over Bukele’s possible re-election: what the ruling party says and what constitutionalists argue

The decision by Bukele and his party to field him as a candidate in this Sunday’s election has sparked controversy, as some constitutionalists say at least five articles of the constitution prohibit snap re-elections. However, the ruling party believes that there is a possibility that a second term could be sought – and according to the official analysis – if the President and Vice President had resigned six months earlier.

For Eduardo Escobar, executive director of Acrion Ciudadana, a non-profit organization specializing in social monitoring, Bukele’s candidacy is “undoubtedly unconstitutional.”

“In El Salvador, immediate re-election is prohibited by the constitution,” Escobar told CNN. “There are several provisions in the (Constitution) that clearly indicate that anyone who serves as President in the period preceding the new period cannot serve as President.”

So, how to understand the Constitutional Chamber decision, issued in September 2021, that gave rise to all this?

Constitutional House changes in 2021

In 2021, the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador, with a pro-government majority, dismissed the Chief and Alternate Justices of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court and the Attorney General, Raúl Melara. Furthermore, on their first day of work, delegates elected and swore in new judges, who were criticized by the international community for lacking checks and balances in democracy and lack of respect for the separation of powers.

For Escobar “That ‘Constitutional Chamber’ is, in quotes, a group of lawyers charged by the President with the decision of the Legislative Assembly: they are not validly appointed, they are not validly elected magistrates, but, As I say, this is a court, a so-called court, which has been custom-made by the President himself.”

The Director of Citizen Action assured that the resolutions of that Chamber “lack legal validity” and that the legitimate judges were those who were dismissed in 2021.

Escobar assured that El Salvador was in the final stages “that will lead a country towards dictatorship.”

“We saw it in Nicaragua, we saw it in Venezuela that rulers come to power legitimately, they gain the approval of the people, they use populism to ingratiate themselves with the people, then they oust the authorities. They fire whoever they want and put whoever they want in important positions like prosecutor, Constitutional Chamber, etc., and then they violate human rights, they repress the press, they suppress protests. For example, they attack those who think differently and ultimately reform the electoral rules that already exist. They did in El Salvador. They already reformed them for the 2024 election. “, which favors the Nuevas Ideas Party and supports its re-election.”

With information from Marilyn Delcid and Jennifer Montoya

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