Upcoming 2021 mayoral elections in El Salvador

Ballot for San Salvador Mayor

Salvadorans will be going to the polls Sunday to elect mayors in all 262 municipalities across the country. Unlike elections for legislators which also happen that day, local mayoral elections are much more about the individuals running for office, how well incumbents have done their jobs, and about the strength of on-the-ground organizing efforts.  Simply put, people know the name of their mayor and how well they are serving the local neighborhood, while they frequently have no idea of the names of the deputies who represent their department in the national congress.

The marquee mayoral race is the competition for mayor of San Salvador, the capital and El Salvador's largest city.  The current mayor is Ernesto Muyshondt from ARENA who is seeking re-election.   Muyshondt won the post in 2018 by a landslide after the FMLN expelled the incumbent mayor, Nayib Bukele, from the party.  The fact that Muyshondt has been linked to delivering thousands of dollars to gangs in connection with the 2014 presidential election has not seemed to hurt his political career.    

Currently leading in the polls is Mario Durán of Nuevas Ideas.  Durán has served in Nayib Bukele's administration as Minister of Governance.  His campaign boils down to -- elect me, I am the same as Nayib. Perhaps negotiating with gangs is part of the job description for San Salvador mayor, because Durán has also been photographed meeting with a top MS-13 leader when he was an official in Nayib Bukele's San Salvador government.  Durán's candidacy is also supported by GANA.

The FMLN has nominated lawyer Rogelio Canales in the San Salvador mayoral race.  Following his campaign kick-off rally on January 31, two supporters were killed and others wounded in a shooting which raised fears of political violence.  Canales has virtually no chance of winning.

The other candidate is Hector Silva.  Silva is the grandson of Héctor Silva Argüello, who was mayor of San Salvador from 1997-2003, and is the son of journalist Hector Silva Avalos.   The youngest Hector Silva, a graduate of the University of Massachusetts, Amherst, is one of the young professionals running as candidates of the newly formed Nuestro Tiempo  (Our Time) party.

Another interesting race is happening in San Miguel. The current mayor is Miguel Pereira of the FMLN who came into office in 2015 after vanquishing long time mayor Will Salgado of GANA.  Pereira won against Salgado again in 2018 by 2.4% of the votes.   Salgado is running yet again this year, as a candidate of a Nuevas Ideas / GANA coalition.   The race pits Pereira's popularity and good marks in six years as mayor against the extra momentum that affiliation with Nuevas Ideas may give to Salgado.  This race is certainly too close to call.   

Also running for re-election for a third term is Robert D'Aubuisson, Jr., the ARENA mayor of Santa Tecla.  D'Aubuisson is the son of the founder of ARENA with the same name.  At the moment, he is well behind Henry Flores of Nuevas Ideas in the polls.

I will also be watching the mayor's races in several municipalities which have long-serving and popular FMLN mayors including Panchimalco, El Paisnal and Nejapa in the department of San Salvador.   The question here is whether the steep decline of the FMLN's fortunes on a national level also brings down local office holders.    

ARENA mayors currently govern in 140 of El Salvador's 262 towns and cities.  Expect to see a decline in that number after Sunday.