El Salvador’s Bukele heads for re-election but troubled tally delays results

El Salvador’s Bukele Heads For Re-Election But Troubled Tally Delays Results
Problems with the vote count stalled the effort late on Sunday with ballots from only 31 per cent of polling places tallied. Photo: PA Images
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Megan Janetsky and Marcos Aleman, Associated Press

Voters in El Salvador appeared to give Nayib Bukele a second term as president, but a troubled vote tally delayed results in an election that for many hinged on the trade-off of curtailed civil liberties for security in a country once terrorised by gangs.

Problems with the vote count stalled the effort late on Sunday with ballots from only 31 per cent of polling places tallied, a percentage that remained stuck in place on the Supreme Electoral Tribunal’s preliminary results website on Monday morning.


Early on Monday, the electoral authority released a statement referring to “multiple actions that have hampered the development of the transmission activities of preliminary results” and the lack of the paper used to print out the vote tallies at polling places.

El Salvador Elections
El Salvador president Nayib Bukele and his wife Gabriela Rodriguez on the balcony of the presidential palace in San Salvador, El Salvador (Moises Castillo/AP)

It called on the boards charged with tallying the votes at each polling place to switch to a contingency process that included tallying votes by hand, taking photographs or scans of those manual tallies and turning them into the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.


When the Supreme Electoral Tribunal’s digital tally stopped late on Sunday, Mr Bukele had 83 per cent of the vote, far ahead of his nearest competitor’s 7 per cent for the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front.

The electoral site updating the count crashed shortly before midnight.

That did not stop a jubilant Mr Bukele from declaring a historic margin of victory before electoral authorities had released even the first preliminary figure on Sunday evening.

Later, standing on the balcony of the National Palace, he said that the country had made history.


“Why are there so many eyes on a small (Latin) American country?” he asked thousands of supporters. “They’re afraid of the power of example.”

“Salvadorans have given the example to the entire world that any problem can be solved if there is the will to do it,” he said.

The self-described “world’s coolest dictator” appeared on his way to victory after enjoying soaring approval ratings and virtually no competition. That came despite concerns that Mr Bukele’s government has slowly chipped away at checks and balances in his first term and accusations that he dodged a constitutional ban on re-election.

After casting his vote, Mr Bukele made clear that he expects the newly elected Legislative Assembly to continue extending the special powers he has enjoyed since March 2022 to combat gangs.


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