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Nayib Bukele, ‘world coolest dictator’, wins El Salvador election – again – Times of India


President Nayib Bukele has secured an overwhelming victory in the elections of El Salvador, as voters looked past concerns about the diminishing state of democracy to endorse his rigorous anti-gang measures, which significantly improved safety in the nation.
In a vibrant display of support, countless followers of Bukele, donned in cyan blue and brandishing flags, gathered in the central square of San Salvador to celebrate his re-election.The 42-year-old president described the victory as a “referendum” on his administration.
Bukele’s New Ideas party is poised to capture nearly all 60 seats in the legislature, further consolidating its control over the nation and augmenting Bukele’s influence, marking him as the most dominant leader in the contemporary history of El Salvador.
Bukele, addressing his supporters from the National Palace balcony alongside his wife, proclaimed, “All together the opposition was pulverized.” He confidently stated, “El Salvador went from being the most unsafe (country) to the safest. Now in these next five years, wait to see what we are going to do.”
Rule for life?

  • The electoral triumph of New Ideas signifies that Bukele will possess unparalleled authority, potentially enabling him to amend the constitution of El Salvador. This prospect alarms his adversaries, who worry it may lead to the elimination of presidential term limits.
  • When asked about possibly of altering the constitution to permit endless re-election, Bukele, in a conversation with journalists, said, “I didn’t think a constitutional reform would be necessary.” However, he refrained from explicitly addressing whether he intends to pursue a third term.
  • Meanwhile, traditional political parties in El Salvador face a steep uphill battle in regaining the trust of the populace.
  • Bukele’s campaign portrayed opposition parties as collaborators with criminal gangs, a claim they vehemently refute.
  • Nonetheless, Bukele has adeptly dominated public discourse, leveraging a well-oiled media apparatus bolstered by a contingent of paid trolls who target journalists and political adversaries.
  • In recent times, the legislative assembly has predominantly endorsed Bukele’s initiatives, with most legislation originating from the presidential office. Proposals from the opposition were seldom considered.

Who is Nayib Bukele, the world’s ‘coolest dictator’

  • Nayib Bukele is also known as the ‘world’s coolest dictator’, a nickname that he has sarcastically embraced on his social media accounts. But what makes him so cool, and why is he considered a dictator?
  • Bukele is a former publicist and mayor who rose to power in 2019 by tapping into the popular discontent with the traditional political parties. He ran as an outsider, promising to fight crime, corruption, and inequality. He also cultivated a youthful and modern image, using platforms like Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok to communicate with his followers and troll his critics. He often wears baseball caps, leather jackets, and sunglasses, and has a penchant for selfies and memes.
  • Bukele has also taken some unconventional and controversial decisions as president. He has adopted bitcoin as legal tender, making El Salvador the first country in the world to do so. He has launched a ‘territorial control plan’ that involves deploying the military and the police to crack down on gangs, which are responsible for much of the violence in the country. He has also pursued corruption charges against former officials and politicians from the opposition parties.
  • Bukele’s supporters praise him for his bold and innovative actions, and for his ability to connect with the people and the international community. He enjoys an approval rating of over 80%, making him one of the most popular leaders in the world.
  • Bukele has also shown intolerance and hostility towards anyone who opposes or questions him. He has dismissed protesters as vandals, and called independent media and civil society groups liars and defenders of criminality. He has used his social media accounts to attack and mock his rivals, and to spread misinformation and propaganda. He has also threatened and harassed journalists, activists, and diplomats who criticize him or expose his abuses.

‘A dictator in disguise’

  • However, Bukele’s critics accuse him of being a dictator in disguise, and of undermining the country’s democracy and human rights. They point out that he has used his popularity and his majority in the legislature to consolidate his power and weaken the checks and balances. He has replaced the judges of the constitutional court and the attorney general with loyalists, giving him control over the judiciary. He has also ignored court rulings that limit his authority, such as the ones that declared his lockdown measures and his bitcoin law unconstitutional.
  • Bukele’s government has rounded up more than 75,000 presumed members of gangs blamed for the deaths of some 120,000 civilians in three decades.
  • Bukele’s authoritarian tendencies have raised alarms among the international community and human rights organizations. The United States, the European Union, the United Nations, and the Organization of American States have expressed their concerns and urged him to respect the rule of law and the separation of powers. They have also warned him of the potential consequences of his actions, such as sanctions, isolation, and instability.
  • Bukele, however, has dismissed these warnings and accusations as interference and hypocrisy. He has argued that he is acting in the best interests of the Salvadoran people, and that he is facing resistance from the corrupt and the powerful who want to maintain the status quo. He has also accused the international community of double standards and of ignoring the problems and the achievements of his country.
  • “Democracy means the power of the people,” he said, lashing out at foreign governments, journalists and rights groups who have warned of an authoritarian drift and railing against the US for its role in the country’s brutal 1979-1992 civil war. El Salvador had “made history” for electing a single party “in a fully democratic system,” he said.
  • Bukele’s popularity and his defiance have made him a polarizing figure, both at home and abroad. Some see him as a visionary and a hero, while others see him as a tyrant and a menace. He has also become a symbol of a new wave of populist and authoritarian leaders who use social media and technology to manipulate and mobilize their followers, and to challenge and undermine the established order. He is, indeed, the ‘world’s coolest dictator’.

(With inputs from agencies)




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