Why could Bukele be a candidate in El Salvador's 2024 presidential election?
(CNN in Spanish) — El Salvador's president, Nayib Bukele, is running for election on Sunday despite the fact that the country's constitution, critics say, 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 highest court ruled that Bukele could run for a second term, but must leave office six months before the start of a new term.
Some time later, in July 2023, the Nuevas Ideas Party held its primaries and was the sole candidate.
The debate over Bukele's possible re-election: what the ruling party says and what constitutionalists argue
The decision by Bukele and his party to accept him as a candidate in Sunday's election has unleashed controversy, with some constitutionalists saying at least five articles of the constitution prohibit an immediate re-election. But the ruling party believes that there is a possibility of seeking a second term – according to the official analysis – if the president and his deputy resign six months ago.
Eduardo Escobar, executive director of Acción Ciudadana, a non-profit association specializing in social control, believes that Bukele's nomination is “undoubtedly unconstitutional.”
“In El Salvador, the constitution prohibits immediate re-election,” Escobar explained to CNN. “[La Constitución] “It contains several clauses that clearly indicate that whoever held the position of president in the period preceding the new term may not hold the position of president.”
How do we understand the ruling of the Constitutional Chamber issued in September 2021, which led to all this?
Change of the Constitutional Council 2021
In 2021, the Legislative Assembly of El Salvador, with a pro-government majority, expelled the principal and reserve judges of the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice and Prosecutor Raúl Melara. Moreover, on their first day of work, the representatives elected the new judges and took the oath of office, which was criticized by the international community for the lack of checks and balances in a democracy and the lack of respect for the separation of powers.
For Escobar the “Constitutional Chamber,” in the quotes, is a body of lawyers imposed by the President accompanying the decision of the Legislative Assembly: not legitimately appointed, not legitimately elected judges, but, as I say, it is a court, a supposed court, made by the President himself as orderd”.
The director of Citizen Action confirms that the decisions of that chamber “lack legal legitimacy” and that the Sharia judges were the ones who were removed in 2021.
Escobar asserts that El Salvador is going through the final stages “that lead the country to dictatorship.”
“We saw that in Nicaragua, and we saw that in Venezuela specifically, where rulers come to power legitimately, get the approval of the people, use populism to win the support of the people, and then they fire the officials, and they appoint whoever they want and whomever they want.” They like to hold important positions such as the Public Prosecutor, the Constitutional Chamber, etc., etc. Then they violate human rights, suppress the press, suppress protest, for example, attack those who think differently and end up reforming the system. “The electoral rules are already in place. As happened in El Salvador. They have already been reformed for the 2024 elections, which favors New Ideas and favors re-election.”
With information from Merlin Del Cide and Jennifer Montoya