Nayib Bukele -- new president of El Salvador
The polls were right all along. Nayib Bukele, the young businessman turned politician whose favorite communication medium is Facebook Live, won the presidency of El Salvador on Sunday with a 23 percentage point lead over his next closest rival, Carlos Calleja of ARENA. There will be no second round election.
There were many things which supporters of the two major parties had been saying to dispel the notion that those polls were accurate. They claimed Bukele's supporters were all young people and that young people don't vote. They claimed Bukele's supporters were urban hipsters, but he could not have support out in the rest of the country outside San Salvador. They claimed that Bukele was not doing all the traditional things to win a Salvadoran election.
But "they" on the right and the left were wrong. Bukele rode a massive wave of Salvadoran discontentment with the existing political establishment. He won in every sector of the country. Carlos Calleja, who claimed to be a new generation of conservative leader, could only be seen as part of that existing political establishment.
The point where I knew Nayib Bukele was certain to win this election came a little more than a week ago. I ran into a Salvadoran friend I have known for 18 years. For all the time I knew him, he was a true believer in the FMLN. He and his wife lived in a poor community outside of San Salvador. He was a local FMLN activist, always sporting his red party colors and attending all the local party events and party rallies in San Salvador. They celebrated wildly when Mauricio Funes won the presidency on the FMLN ticket in 2009.
When I spoke to my friend a week before the election he was not wearing party colors. It was the day of the final campaign rally of Hugo Martinez. I asked if he was going, because I was certain he would be. He said no. Then I asked, "Marcelino, are you going to vote for Nayib?" He nodded, saying, "I just can't support the party that has not kept any of its promises to us."
The success of Bukele comes from the abandonment of the FMLN by voters like my friend, added to Bukele's overwhelming support among the 40-50% of the population which has not identified itself with either ARENA or the FMLN during the past decade.
But how do you govern if you are Bukele? If you consider the GANA deputies in the National Assembly as his supporters (and I am not sure that is a safe bet), he has 10 deputies, to which you would add the one deputy from CD. The other 73 deputies come from parties on the right and left who deeply dislike him. In addition, he faces a new attorney general appointed by the conservative legislature, and a new Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Judicial Court appointed by the same legislature. While the executive branch of the government certainly can do some things on its own; many of Bukele's ambitious ideas require legislative support which he lacks.
He will be president on June 1. What happens next will be a new era for El Salvador.