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SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador – El Salvador’s electoral authority on Wednesday, February 7, said it would begin to hand count ballots for the country’s presidential and legislative assembly elections after reporting there were system failures in transmitting the votes.
President Nayib Bukele’s victory, with 83% of the majority of the vote counted, is not in doubt, but the spotlight is on the country’s 60 congressional seats.
A supermajority in Congress would give Bukele unprecedented power, including allowing him to change the country’s constitution and continue to shelve constitutional rights in his popular crackdown on the country’s gangs, which has drawn criticisms from rights groups.
On Sunday after declaring himself the victor, he said his New Ideas party had won 58 out of 60 seats in Congress, despite just 5% of ballots for the seats being counted. The electoral body has yet to declare an official winner in either vote.
Bukele’s declarations are the focus of scrutiny after there was ultimately a systematic failure with numerous reports of irregularities, glitches, and power and internet outages.
“Some inconveniences made it difficult for it (the counting) to happen as planned,” Dora Esmeralda Martinez, the head of the electoral authority said on national television on Monday.
On Wednesday, counting of the remainder of the presidential vote began in the Hilton hotel in the capital. The congressional count will begin Thursday in a soccer stadium.
During his first term, Bukele used his New Ideas party’s congressional majority to pack courts with loyalists and overhaul state institutions, paving the way for him to run for a second term despite a constitutional ban on re-election.
Bukele has not discounted running for a third term.
Analysts and opponents say that before the election the congress made electoral reforms which tipped the scales in his party’s favor, lowering the number of seats from 84 to 60.
During campaigning Bukele urged Salvadorans to cast ballots for congress, warning that if New Ideas lost seats the opposition would “free gang members and use them to return to power.” – Rappler.com