El Salvador court drops ban on presidential reelection

El Salvador's highest court and its election authority have disregarded what appeared to be a constitutional ban against consecutive presidential reelection. This opens the door for President Nayib Buukele to possibly seek a second term in 2024.

El Salvador court drops ban on presidential reelection

Friday's Supreme Court Constitutional Chamber asked the Supreme Electoral Tribunal for a second term. Saturday, the electoral authority said it would accept what it called a decision that cannot be appealed.

These rulings, by a court that was recently reorganized by Bukele's party, alarm opposition parties and citizen activist organizations who have long accused Bukele of authoritarian tendencies. They also said the ruling was clearly not constitutional.

Although Bukele has not yet announced his plans to run for reelection in public, critics believe he will.

Eduardo Escobar, an attorney from Citizen Action, stated that "The election in 2024 will be a great farce."

Courts have held that El Salvador's Constitution forbids presidents from seeking reelection after their first term. This is equivalent to two five year terms in the National Assembly.

The constitution prohibits candidates who have held the presidency more than six months, "during six months immediately preceding or following the start of the presidential term."

With his promises to eradicate corruption from the country's traditional political parties, the populist president was elected in 2019. He has enjoyed high popularity. His New Ideas party was elected to the majority in Congress this year. It replaced five members of the Constitutional Chamber in May and the independent attorney general, who had resisted many of Bukele’s previous actions.

Salvador Salvador Enrique Anaya was the attorney who challenged efforts to encourage reelection. He argued that the court action "has no legal validity: It isn't signed by the justices."

"The state stopped being at the service the people and became at the service one person," tweeted Anabel Belloso (congress member for Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front).

According to the conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance, the attempt to keep and consolidate power is "the precursor to a dictatorship." The power of the majority tends to be corrupt. Absolute power corrupts everything."

Jean Manes (charge d'affaires, U.S. Embassy San Salvador) stated at a press conference that the U.S. government condemned the decision.

Manes noted that the Constitutional Chamber had earlier replaced its magistrates with president-supporting judges. Manes stated that the court's decision "demonstrates a clear strategy for undermining judicial independence" and "removes a key counterweight of the executive branch."

She stated that democracy is founded on the three branches of government. Therefore, a weakness in the independence of the judiciary could indicate a decline in democracy in El Salvador.

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