The five deputy judges who make up El Salvador's electoral court have distanced themselves from elections that gave embattled President Nayib Bukele a landslide victory on February 4. The Salvadoran newspaper El Faro has published three letters sent by these officials to their co-owners of the college, in which they denounce, a week after the elections, actions committed during the process that are anything but “legal” and “correct.” were. We want to lead a process of this magnitude and affirm that “we are no longer in a position to accept decisions that have not been legally made” or “unilateral declarations and commitments”.
Bukele won re-election with an overwhelming majority of 82% of the vote, according to results released by the electoral court on February 9 after chaotic days of vote counting due to the failure of the preliminary recount system. Electoral authorities said they would open all polling stations and conduct an individual count to determine the number of deputies elected to the National Assembly. The electoral body said the final count “was a success” and that the victory of Bukele and his New Ideas political movement was taken for granted despite criticism from the opposition and local observers.
However, the process was denounced by five deputy judges of the court, who said that decisions were made that were not in accordance with the law. In addition to the failure of the vote transfer system, these officials warned against criticism from the opposition, which insisted that the court had not provided timely information about the mechanism they should use when counting votes. The right-wing Arena party decided to withdraw from the audit because electoral authorities did not guarantee “the conditions of a transparent process,” El Faro reported.
In one of the letters published by Salvadoran media, the judges reported warning that the TSE “runs out of time to resolve the problems” facing the electoral system. This letter states: “The justices say that on January 25th they knew they were in an “incurable crisis” that had already changed much of the general election plan (PLAGEL). This plan consists of 25 programs (or work axes) into which the organization of the electoral process is divided and which are considered the backbone of the entire organization. The crisis and the rulings, which were not changed in the last days of January, could only have one result, according to the replacement judges: a crisis on election day,” reports El Faro. Officials also expressed doubts about the proper functioning of the voting equipment. “Were they properly tested? “Were some changes made that prevented it from functioning properly?” said the judges, who also reiterated that they asked to be informed of the decisions taken by the organization regarding the process. “We cannot accept responsibility for the issues that were presented to us too soon and for the consequences that became apparent on February 4th.” [día de la elección]”, they denounce.
On the same day of the election, President Bukele declared a landslide victory before the electoral court ruled on the results. That night, the Salvadoran president announced his victory with 85% without waiting for the official results and attacked the opposition and the press. The victory allows Bukele, 42, to continue the emergency regime and his controversial anti-violence policies that have allowed him to dismantle the so-called Maras, gangs spreading terror in the Central American country. More than 70,000 people have been imprisoned due to the emergency regime imposed by the president eleven months ago. Human rights organizations have denounced that many cases involved illegal arrests and sham trials and that serious violations were committed in the country's prisons. Bukele has criticized these complaints and, despite them, continues to enjoy strong support from the population, who welcome the measures against gangs. “Yes, okay, some unpleasant things have happened,” residents told this newspaper, “but we are a thousand times better than before.”
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