El Salvador votes for new president, with anti-corruption outsider in lead

Salvadorans will vote in the first round of a presidential election on Sunday, with an energetic former mayor campaigning as an anti-corruption outsider set to win the top job and end decades of a two-party system. 

Nayib Bukele, 37, has capitalized on the anti-establishment feeling sweeping elections across the region and further afield, as voters seek an alternative to traditional parties. 

Since the end of its civil war in 1992, El Salvador has been governed by just two parties: ruling leftists the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN), and its rival, the conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA). 

Though he describes himself as from the left and was expelled from the FMLN, Bukele has formed a coalition with parties including a right-wing one who together have just 11 seats in the legislature. 

Pollster Mitofsky said in a January poll that Bukele had 57 percent of voter support, while a poll by Gallup showed him with 42 percent. Both polls show ARENA's Carlos Calleja in second place. 

If no candidate wins more than 50 percent of Sunday's vote, two candidates will pass into a runoff to be held in March. 

The new government will have to try to kickstart a sluggish economy, combat corruption and tackle one of the highest rates of homicide in the world. 

Bukele, who was mayor of San Salvador between 2015 to 2018, has said he wants to create an international anti-corruption commission with the support of the UN, following similar schemes in Guatemala and Honduras. 

Bukele's relatively wealthy family were sympathetic to the FMLN, the former leftist guerrilla army that became a political party at the end of El Salvador's civil war in 1992. But Bukele has turned away from Latin America's traditional left.

(Cover: Presidential candidate Nayib Bukele, of the Great National Alliance (GANA), participates in a rally to close his election campaign in downtown San Salvador, January 26, 2019. /Reuters Photo)

Source(s): Reuters