Nayib Bukele is set to easily win a second term on Sunday, riding enormous support for his crackdown on gangs, even if the price has been restricting civil liberties.
In El Salvador’s presidential contest on Sunday, there is no real competition: Nayib Bukele, the millennial president who reshaped the country with a crackdown on gangs and civil liberties, is expected to win re-election in a landslide.
Legal scholars say Mr. Bukele, 42, is violating a constitutional ban by seeking a second consecutive term, but most Salvadorans don’t seem to care.
Surveys show that voters overwhelmingly support Mr. Bukele’s candidacy and will likely cement his party’s supermajority in the legislature on Sunday, extending the leader’s unimpeded control over every lever of government for years.
“They want to show that they can do this, they want to show they have popular backing for doing it — and they want everyone to just live with it, regardless of the Constitution,” said Ricardo Zuniga, who served as the U.S. State Department’s special envoy to Central America under President Biden. “It’s a demonstration of power.”
Nearly 80 percent of Salvadorans said they supported Mr. Bukele’s candidacy in one recent survey. The same survey shows his New Ideas party could win as many as 57 of 60 seats in the legislature, after it made changes to the composition of the legislative assembly that analysts say benefited the governing party.
Mr. Bukele’s main selling point has been the nearly two-year state of emergency his government imposed after the gangs that had long dominated the streets went on a killing spree in March 2022.