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El Salvador's Nayib Bukele heads for reelection as president

El Salvador President Nayib Bukele, left, accompanied by his wife Gabriela Rodriguez.
El Salvador President Nayib Bukele, left, accompanied by his wife Gabriela Rodriguez. Copyright Moises Castillo/AP
Copyright Moises Castillo/AP
By Katy Dartford with AP
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For many the election hinged on the tradeoff of curtailed civil liberties for security in a country once terrorized by gangs.

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Voters in El Salvador appear to have given Nayib Bukele a second term as president, although a troubled vote tally delayed results late on Sunday night.

Ballots from only 31 per cent of polling stations were tallied, a percentage that remained stuck on the Supreme Electoral Tribunal's preliminary results website Monday morning.

When counting stopped late Sunday, Bukele had 83 per cent of the vote, far ahead of his nearest competitor, the leftist Farabundo Martí National Liberation Front, which recorded seven per cent. 

The electoral site updating the count crashed shortly before midnight.

It did not stop a jubilant Bukele from declaring a historic margin of victory before electoral authorities had released even the first preliminary figure Sunday evening.

Later, standing on the balcony of the National Palace, he said that the country had made history. 

“Why are there so many eyes on a small (Latin) American country?” he asked thousands of supporters. “They’re afraid of the power of example.”

“Salvadorans have given the example to the entire world that any problem can be solved if there is the will to do it,” he said.

The 42-year-old also took to social media to say he had won re-election:

The self-described “world’s coolest dictator” appeared on his way to victory after enjoying soaring approval ratings and virtually no competition. 

That came despite concerns that Bukele’s government has slowly chipped away at checks and balances in his first term and accusations that he dodged a constitutional ban on reelection.

After casting his vote, Bukele made clear that he expects the newly elected Legislative Assembly to continue extending the special powers he has enjoyed since March 2022 to combat the gangs.

He jousted with reporters, asserting that the election’s results would serve as a “referendum” on what his administration has done.

“We are not substituting democracy, because El Salvador never had democracy,” he said. “This is the first time in history that El Salvador has democracy. And I’m not saying it, the people say it.”

Bukele has been a highly popular leader and only more so since the government began its crackdown on the country's feared gangs.

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