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Presidential candidate Nayib Bukele of the Great National Alliance (GANA) casts his vote next to his wife Gabriela Rodriguez during the presidential election in San Salvador, El Salvador, February 3, 2019.

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"At this moment we can announce with total certainty that we have won the presidency," Bukele told the crowd.
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Nayib Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, claimed victory Sunday in El Salvador's presidential election.

He told his cheering supporters that he had won a majority of the ballots.

With nearly 90 percent of the ballots counted, El Salvador's election commission said Bukele had almost 54 percent of the votes, enough for the politician to avoid a runoff vote in March.

"At this moment we can announce with total certainty that we have won the presidency," Bukele told the crowd.

Former Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez of the ruling FMLN party and Carlos Calleja of the right-wing ARENA acknowledged their defeat.

Turnout was reported heavy for Sunday's vote.

Polls leading up to the election had favored Bukele.

The candidates promised the same things to voters, including more economic opportunities and efforts to tackle gangs and crime. El Salvador has one of the world's highest murder rates.

​But Bukele, who has always considered himself to be a liberal, has been critical of the ruling leftists. He ran as a candidate with the newly-formed conservative Grand Alliance for National Unity.

Two parties -- the left-leaning FMLN and conservative ARENA party -- have dominated Salvadoran politics since the end of the civil war in 1992.

But neither party has been able to successfully neutralize gangs or revitalize the economy.

Many voters say both traditional parties are corrupt and change is needed.

About a third of Salvadorans live in poverty.

Many Salvadorans joined the Central American caravans to the U.S. - Mexican border to seek a better life in the United States.

 

Source: VOA

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