El Salvador is a country located in the region of North America. In the 2019 presidential election, Nayib Bukele, a then 37-year-old former mayor of San Salvador, won. He is the first president since the Civil War 1980 – 1992 which do not belong to either of the two dominant parties. Bukele has made the fight against gang crime a top priority.
Nayib Bukele already won the first round with more than half the votes. Bukele proclaimed a “historic victory” when it broke the pattern of two parties who previously played the main roles on the political scene: first the conservative Republican Nationalist Alliance (Arena) and then the last left guerrilla Front Farabundo Martí for National Liberation (FMLN), who sat in power from 2009 to 2019.
- Countryaah: Country facts and history of El Salvador, including state flag, location map, demographics, GDP data, currency code, and business statistics.
Bukele himself belonged to the FMLN when he was elected mayor, first in Nuevo Cuscatlán in 2012 and then in the capital San Salvador in 2015. But in 2017 he was excluded from the party after allegations of causing internal fragmentation. After trying to stand in the presidential election for two other parties (which were, however, stopped by the electoral authority), Bukele ended up in a “comfort marriage” with the Great Alliance for National Unity (Ghana), a center-right party formed by defectors from the Arena. Bukele did not mention Ghana in his victory and the party leader was not present when he held it.
In his election campaign, Bukele went against the political elite who he described as corrupt and thieving. He obviously won the voters’ confidence with his campaign with the slogan: “There is enough money if no one steals”. The last three presidents before Salvador Sánchez Cerén, who succeeded Bukele, have been indicted for bribery. One of them died in custody, one has been sentenced to ten years in prison and one has gone on a national escape (see below).
In addition to widespread corruption, gang crime, serious violent crime and impunity are serious scams in El Salvador. The country has often been called the most violent in the world where no real war is going on.
When Bukele took office, the criminal gang increased, according to observers, to try to force concessions as better prison terms by the new government. But Bukele chose to push hard against hard. According to Justice and Security Minister Rogelio Rivas, the government has only succeeded in taking control of prisons after only a few months. New figures also indicate that the murder rate continues to fall (see Democracy and Rights).
After more than six months as president, Bukele ended up in February 2020 in an open confrontation with Parliament. The background was a request for a loan of $ 109 million for equipment for the security forces, in order to combat crime. The president was upset that he did not receive Parliament’s approval soon enough. He announced an extra session on a Sunday, took armed soldiers and police officers into the parliament building and urged supporters to gather outside. It caused great resurrection and sharp criticism. The parliamentarians largely boycotted the session in protest, which meant that they were too few to vote.
The MEPs gathered for an extramural meeting the following day and condemned what President Mario Ponce called “a coup attempt”. A meeting that would have been held to discuss the loan was canceled. President Bukele wrote on Twitter that no murder was committed in the country that day, which he took as income for his plan to work.
Bukele’s actions indicate that he is prepared to push the boundaries of his powers of power to pursue his cause. He has strong support in public opinion and obviously also by the armed forces. But after a reprimand from the Supreme Court, the president said he should refrain from using armed forces in a way that threatens the political order.
President Bukele ended up on a collision course with Parliament a few months later, when the corona pandemic broke out. Bukele quickly introduced very restrictive measures when the virus began to spread around the world, even before any cases were discovered in El Salvador. An emergency permit was introduced in mid-March, but when Bukele wanted to extend it for the second time, two months later, Parliament and the Constitutional Court stopped him. The number of cases of covid-19 recorded at that time was still quite modest in the country and the number of deaths in the disease was below 50 in total.
Read more about the ongoing development in the Calendar.
FACTS – POLITICS
Republic of El Salvador / Republic of El Salvador
republic, unitary state
Head of State and Government
President Nayib Bukele (2019–)
Most important parties with mandates in the last election
Arena 37, FMLN 23, Ghana 11, National Consultation Party (PCN) 8, Christian Democratic Party (PDC) 3, other 2 (2018)
Main parties with mandates in the second most recent elections
Arena 32, FMLN 31, Ghana 11, National Consultation Party (PCN) 4, Arena PCN 3, Christian Democratic Party (PDC) 1, PCN-PDC 1, PCN-DS 1 (2015)
52% in the 2019 presidential election, 48% in the 2018 parliamentary elections
parliamentary elections 2021, presidential elections 2024
Ex-president excluded from Arena
Former President Antonio Saca is excluded from the Arena, accused of inciting the twelve MPs to step down and form a new party (see September 2009).
At least 140 deaths following Hurricane Ida
At least 140 people die and thousands become homeless following floods and landslides caused by Hurricane Ida
MEPs form a new party
Twelve of the Arena’s MPs break out of the party, in protest of the old guard taking over. They form a new party, the Great Alliance for National Unity (Ghana).
President Funes presents new government
Upon his entry, President Funes presents a government with ministers from the inner core of the FMLN, the private business community and former members of the Social Democratic Party Cambio democrático (CD). Funes promises to invest more in social policy to prevent growing crime and youth unemployment, but at the same time builds on a strategy from the early 2000s with joint military and police patrols in rural areas (see Social Conditions). One of his first foreign policy measures is to resume relations with Cuba, which has been broken for 50 years.
Crisis in Arena after election loss
The election loss has triggered a crisis in the Arena. At a party congress, the party’s first president, Alfredo Cristiani, is called in to take over the reins and one party.
FMLN wins presidential election
In the presidential election, FMLN’s Mauricio Funes is set against Arenas candidate Rodrigo Ávila, former police chief and security minister. Funes already wins the first round with just over 51 percent of the vote. This is the first time the Left has won a presidential election in El Salvador. Unlike FMLN’s candidates in the previous three presidential elections, Funes, a popular TV journalist, lacks links to the party’s left-wing ideology.
The FMLN becomes the largest party in parliament
In the parliamentary and local elections, the left-wing party FMLN becomes the largest in the national assembly. The party also takes control of almost twice as many municipalities as in the 2006 elections. The right wing Arena loses power in some 20 municipalities and goes back in the parliamentary elections. The FMLN will be the largest in the National Assembly, but Arena will retain control through cooperation with support parties. A setback for the FMLN is that the party loses the mayor’s post in San Salvador to the Arena.