El Salvador’s Congress, which is controlled by President Nayib Bukele’s New Ideas party, on Monday approved a change to an article of the Constitution to facilitate larger constitutional reforms without having to wait until after the election of a new legislature.

The move further consolidates power in the hands of Bukele and his party, with some critics saying it opens up a possible path for the leader to remain in power.

Previously, constitutional reforms had to be proposed and approved in one legislature and then ratified in the subsequent Congress after elections. Now, reforms can be implemented only with a vote of three-quarters of lawmakers.

“This is a shot at our country’s democracy. The only thing they demonstrate is their petty interests and the ambition to maintain and not abandon power”, said Rosa Romero, from the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA).

Bukele, a populist strongman, has already taken steps that critics say endanger the Central American country’s fragile democracy.

In addition to persecuting critics and arresting 1% of his country’s population in the gang crackdown, the leader also approved reforms last year that reduced the number of seats in Congress, effectively weighing the upcoming elections in his party’s favor.

In February, the very popular Bukele easily won a second term in his country’s presidential elections, despite the country’s constitution prohibiting re-election. His party also won a supermajority in Congress, effectively allowing Bukele to govern as he wanted.

Constitutional reform would only allow the leader to carry out his policies, including potentially carrying out more reforms to remain in power.

In an interview with the Associated Press in January, Bukele’s vice president did not rule out the possibility of the leader seeking a third term if the constitution were changed, after repeatedly dodging questions from reporters.

Monday’s reform quickly sparked outrage among critics and watchdogs, including Claudia Ortiz, a lawmaker from the VAMOS party who voted against the reform.

“Do they know what they are doing? They are surrendering to power. Aren’t they ashamed? I want to tell Salvadorans not to give up,” said Ortiz.

Meanwhile, Citizen Action, a non-governmental organization, said in a statement on Monday that “New Ideas is eliminating another political counterweight.”

The measure they eliminated “aimed at preserving the Constitution and protecting the people from the abuses of temporary legislative majorities,” the statement said.


Source: https://www.ocafezinho.com/2024/05/02/congresso-de-el-salvador-aprova-mudancas-para-reformar-constituicao-criticos-chamam-de-antidemocratica/

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