Too Cool for Democracy

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El Salvador’s legislature this week approved a change to the constitution that critics said will further consolidate the power of President Nayib Bukele and his ruling New Ideas party, the Latin American Post reported.

On Monday, the congress – dominated by lawmakers of Bukele’s party – voted to amend a provision that would facilitate larger constitutional reforms without having to wait until new legislative elections.

The previous provision stipulated that reforms could be proposed and approved in one legislature and then ratified in the next congress following elections. But following Monday’s vote, constitutional reforms can move forward within a single term with the approval of three-quarters of legislators.

Opposition lawmakers decried the move as “a shot to the democracy” of El Salvador, adding that Bukele and his party are “handing themselves power,” the Associated Press reported.

Citizen Action, a nongovernmental organization, also warned that the changes removed a measure that upholds the national charter and protects “people from abuses of temporary legislative majorities.”

Critics called Monday’s vote another example of Bukele pushing policies that could allow him to stay longer in power.

In February, the popular president made headlines when he won a second presidential term, violating a constitutional ban on serving consecutive terms, the Economist noted. His New Ideas party also secured a supermajority in the legislature, effectively giving the leader free rein.

Self-described as the “world’s coolest dictator,” Bukele has locked up around one percent of El Salvador’s population during his ongoing crackdown on criminal gangs.

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