1. Skip to content
  2. Skip to main menu
  3. Skip to more DW sites
PoliticsEl Salvador

US slams El Salvador's presidential reelection decision

September 5, 2021

An order by El Salvador's high court that would allow President Nayib Bukele to run for a second term has sparked an outcry, with the opposition accusing him of setting up "a dictatorship."

Salvadoran President Nayib Bukele delivers a press conference at a hotel in the country's capital San Salvador.
Bukele has received harsh criticism for latest attempts to hold onto power in El SalvadorImage: Stanley Estrada/AFP

The US on Saturday slammed a decision in El Salvador that would give President Nayib Bukele the possibility to seek a second term in 2024 despite constitutional restrictions.

The Supreme Court's Constitutional Chamber on Friday ordered the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to drop a ban on presidential reelection. 

"The US condemns the decision taken on September 3 by El Salvador's Supreme Court's Constitutional Chamber," said Jean Manes, the charge d'affaires at the US Embassy in San Salvador.

Manes also described the decision as a "decline" in democracy.

Why is the decision controversial?

The US, opposition parties and civil rights groups, who have accused the populist Bukele of authoritarian tendencies, called the move unconstitutional.

Bukele, who still has not announced his decision to take part in the 2024 election, could be able to hold on to power for ten years straight.

The constitution expressly bars anyone from running for election if they have been president "during the period immediately before or during the last six months before the beginning of the presidential term."

Bukele first came to office in 2019 and promised to stamp out corruption with his New Ideas party.

Students and workers of the state-owned University of El Salvador UES, protest today, in San Salvador, El Salvador.
Protesters remember those killed by the army during a protest against BukeleImage: Rodrigo Sura/imago images/Agencia EFE

After winning a congressional majority and taking seats in the National Assembly, the New Ideas party replaced five members of the Constitutional Chamber and an independent attorney-general that had opposed the president's earlier actions.

How have critics reacted?

The decision by the court and electoral tribunal prompted attorney Eduardo Escobar from the Citizen Action Group to predict that "the election of 2024 will be a farce."

Another attorney, Salvador Enrique Anaya, said the decision "has no legal value" because it was not signed by judges.

"The state ceased to be at the service of the people and passed to be at the service of one person," tweeted Anabel Belloso, a congress member for the left-wing Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front in opposition.

Even the conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance said these moves were "the precursor to a dictatorship."

"Power tends to corrupt. Absolute power corrupts absolutely," the conservative party said.

"Since taking office, President Nayib Bukele has launched an assault on democratic institutions," said Human Rights Watch while singling out the replacement of judges.

"His administration implemented abusive COVID-19 related measures such as inhumane conditions for prisoners and created a hostile environment for media," the civil rights group added.

jc/fb (AP, Reuters)


Skip next section DW's Top Story

DW's Top Story

Ukraine's President Volodymyr Zelenskyy pictured on a visit to assess flooded areas in Kherson
Skip next section More stories from DW
Go to homepage