Salvadoran Re-Election Ruling Undermines Democracy 

STATEMENT BY NED PRICE, SPOKESPERSON

September 5, 2021

Salvadoran Re-Election Ruling Undermines Democracy

The United States government condemns the September 3 ruling by the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of El Salvador, which authorized immediate presidential re-election in contravention of the Salvadoran constitution.  The Salvadoran constitution clearly prohibits presidential incumbents from re-election to a consecutive term.  This ruling is a direct result of the decision on May 1 by the Salvadoran Legislative Assembly to remove the sitting justices of the Constitutional Chamber and install replacements loyal to the President. Salvadoran experts described the May 1 legislative removal of justices as unconstitutional and expressed concern that it would erode the separation of powers and democratic governance in the country.  Those fears have been borne out by the September 3 ruling by the Constitutional Chamber.

The Salvadoran Legislative Assembly took additional steps to consolidate control over the judiciary on August 31 by unconstitutionally amending the organic law on Judicial Careers, mandating retirement for justices at 60 years of age or 30 years of service under the premise of rooting out corruption.  Age or time in service has no direct tie to corruption, and El Salvador already has established processes in place to remove corrupt actors.  The practical result of this new mandate is to empower the Bukele administration to stack the judicial branch with its own justices.  Combined with the actions taken by the Legislative Assembly on May 1, this demonstrates a clear strategy to undermine judicial independence and remove a critical counterbalance on the executive branch.

This decline in democratic governance damages the relationship that the United States strives to maintain with the government of El Salvador and further erodes El Salvador’s international image as a democratic and trustworthy partner in the region. The United States calls on President Bukele to demonstrate his stated commitment to democratic governance, including the separation of powers and the rule of law.