SAN SALVADOR, March 14 (Reuters) – Nearly 70% of Salvadorans favor popular President Nayib Bukele’s bid for a second term, a local newspaper poll showed on Tuesday, despite an explicit constitutional prohibition against serving consecutive terms.
In September, Bukele announced he would run for reelection, defying the Central American country’s constitution’s longstanding ban. The Supreme Court, filled with recently-installed Bukele-backed judges, ruled in 2021 that a consecutive term was allowed, citing Bukele’s human right to run.
The move was criticized by rights groups as well as the United States government, which labeled it part of the decline in El Salvador’s democratic norms.
Bukele has defended the decision, arguing that “developed countries have reelection.”
“Salvadorans remain divided on whether the constitution allows immediate re-election,” newspaper La Prensa Grafica said in the poll. “There are citizens who are convinced the constitution does not allow it, but they will still vote for Nayib Bukele.”
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The poll, conducted in February, showed 68% of the 1,500 respondents supported Bukele’s reelection, with 13% against. The remaining 19% expressed no opinion or indifference.
Bukele is one of Latin America’s most popular leaders in part due to his year-long crackdown on violent gangs, which has imprisoned more than 65,000 people while suspending some constitutional and due process rights.
The policy has been sharply criticized by human rights groups, who claim that innocent people have been caught up in the dragnet, in addition to allowing authorities to temporarily lock up suspects without any right to present a defense.