Poll shows El Salvador headed towards one party rule

A new poll released by Francisco Gavidia University (UFG) shows the possibility, that after national elections in February 2024, Nayib Bukele and his Nuevas Ideas party will have firmly consolidated one party rule over all of the Salvadoran government.

There is no surprise that Nayib Bukele has an overwhelming lead in his campaign to be re-elected president for a second five year term. The highly popular Bukele is preferred by more than 68% of respondents, while no other party's candidate reaches even 5%.  

These results appear despite the fact that El Salvador's constitution states multiple times that a president may not be re-elected for successive terms. (See those provisions at the bottom of this post).  However, a panel of Bukele allied judges, installed in the Constitutional Chamber of El Salvador's Supreme Judicial Court by Nuevas Ideas in 2021, decided those provisions should be ignored and issued a ruling that Bukele should be permitted to run again.  

The February 2024 elections will also implement new changes to the method for electing the members of the national Legislative Assembly.  The revisions enacted in June by the Nuevas Ideas controlled congress reduced the number of legislative deputies from 84 to 60 and changed the method of allocating seats among parties from a system of "quotients and remainders" to the "D'Hondt method."   (See the explanation of these changes here).

The UFG poll also asked about voters' preferences in elections for the Legislative Assembly.  If the election results are the same as the poll results, under the new system, Nuevas Ideas would capture 58 of the 60 seats in the legislature, leaving one seat only to each of ARENA and the FMLN. 

The poll shows how the vote counting "reforms" adopted by the Nuevas Ideas controlled Legislative Assembly could dramatically change the presence of opposition parties within the legislature.  As modelled by UFG, under the prior system, Nuevas Ideas would capture only 50 of the 60 seats, but the change to the D'Hondt method gives the party 58 seats.  

[The UFG poll did not include polling of the diaspora, so we cannot say how that would impact these results.  Under the new law for voting from outside of the country, any Salvadoran who has an official residence outside of the country will have their vote included in the vote totals for San Salvador].

The UFG poll also asked respondents about the relative importance of various elements of social life in El Salvador from president Bukele, to religion, to the Constitution.   The results underscore the cult of personality surrounding the president:

Regarding the results of [the UFG poll], it can be concluded that a "cult phenomenon" has been emerged around the figure of Bukele in the minds of Salvadorans. Bukele is more important than religion...

The populist leader who has suspended the due process guarantees of the constitution for the past 17 months under a State of Exception, will also have free reign to rewrite that constitution.  With an overwhelming super-majority in the next legislature, Bukele's party could pass constitutional amendments in the outgoing legislature before May 1, 2024 and then ratify those amendments by super majority in the following months.  Such amendments might make the State of Exception permanent rather than exceptional, or make it even easier for Bukele and his party to remain in power over the long term.          


Provisions of the Constitution of El Salvador which prohibit the re-election of the country's president.

Article 88

The principle that a President cannot succeed himself (alternabilidad) is indispensable for the maintenance of the established form of government and political system. Violation of this norm makes insurrection an obligation.

 Article 131

[Responsibilities of Legislative Assembly]

16th.—To obligatorily disavow the President of the Republic or his substitute if, when his constitutional term has ended, he continues in the exercise of his post. In this case, if no person has been legally summoned for the exercise of the Presidency, a Provisional President shall be designated.

Article 152

[The following] shall not be candidates for the President of the Republic:

1st.—He who has filled the Presidency of the Republic for more than six months, consecutive or not, during the period immediately prior to or within the last six months prior to the beginning of the presidential period.

Article 154

The presidential period shall be of five years, and shall begin and end on the first of June, without the person who exercised the Presidency being able to continue in his functions one day more.

Article 248

Under no circumstances, may the articles of this Constitution, which refer to the form and system of government, to the territory of the Republic, and to the principle that a President cannot succeed himself (alternabilidad), be amended.


In addition, the Constitution explicitly states that legislative deputies and municipal officials may be re-elected while never containing a similar statement about the president.