© Reuters. El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele speaks during the inauguration of the 3 de Febrero hydroelectric power plant in San Luis de La Reina, El Salvador October 19, 2023. REUTERS/Jose Cabezas/File Photo
SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – El Salvador’s President Nayib Bukele formally filed paperwork late on Thursday to run for re-election next year, despite concerns over his constitutional eligibility to seek a consecutive term.
Bukele, 42, enjoys strong public support and announced last year he would contest next February’s presidential election.
While critics question Bukele’s ability to seek a second term citing a constitutional prohibition, the country’s top court ruled he could run in 2021. The judges on the court were appointed by Congress, which is controlled by the president’s New Ideas party.
Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador and a high-profile bitcoin promoter, broke three decades of two-party dominance in Salvadoran politics with his victory in 2019.
A recent poll conducted by the Center for Citizen Studies at the Francisco Gavidia University gave New Ideas nearly 70% support, compared to just over 4% for its closest competitor.
Bukele’s popularity stems largely from a sweeping crackdown on the Central American country’s violent gangs, with over 75,000 suspected gang members arrested to date. Violent crime has plummeted since the policy was launched early last year.
But some rights groups argue that the so-called state of exception frequently violates basic due process rights, leading to the arrest and jailing of innocents who are not allowed to mount a legal defense.