Salvadoreans on Sunday elected Nayib Bukele, the popular former mayor of San Salvador, as their nation’s new president — a result that ends the near 30-year grip on power of its two largest parties.
“At this moment we can announce with total certainty that we have won the presidency,” the 37-year-old Bukele, of the conservative Grand Alliance for National Unity, told supporters late on Sunday.
A few minutes earlier, the nation’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) had awarded him 52.93 percent of the vote with almost 70 percent of ballots counted.
It went on to announce preliminary results gave Bukele an “irreversible” lead of 53.78 percent of votes with 87.67 percent counted.
Bukele’s opponents — Carlos Calleja of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance, and Hugo Martinez of the leftist Farabundo Marti Front for National Liberation — recognized the win.
For nearly three decades, their parties have had a firm hold on Salvadorean politics.
“We recognize the results of these elections. We are going to call the president-elect to wish him luck in facing the challenges in this country,” runner-up Calleja said.
Martinez took third place.
About 5.2 million people voted in the election, TSE head Julio Olivo said.
Voters formed long lines outside polling stations in parts of the capital.
Outgoing Salvadorean President Salvador Sanchez Ceren said voting proceeded “very calmly and very normally.”
About 23,000 police officers and 15,000 soldiers were deployed to protect the sixth presidential election since democracy was restored in 1992.
Taiwan and El Salvador terminated diplomatic relations on Aug. 21 last year.
Bukele has promised to increase investment in education and fight corruption, but his main task will be to implement new programs to confront insecurity.
El Salvador has been battered by gang violence, which authorities say was the source of most of the 3,340 murders reported last year.
He will also have to form an alliance with the right, which dominates congress.
“The new president must offer daring security solutions,” said Carlos Carcach, an analyst and professor at the Higher School of Economy and Business in El Salvador.
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