Outsider Nayib Bukele claims El Salvador presidency

His victory signals an end to nearly 30 years of two-party rule in El Salvado

Photo: EPA Candidate of the GANA (Great Alliance for National Unity) party for the Presidency of El Salvador Nayib Bukele

Anti-corruption candidate Nayib Bukele has claimed victory in El Salvador's presidential election. With almost all votes counted, the former mayor of San Salvador had almost 54% of the vote with his closest rival, the conservative Carlos Calleja on 32%.

"At this moment, we can announce with complete certainty that we have won the presidency of El Salvador in the first round," the 37-year-old, a former San Salvador mayor, told a press conference on Sunday evening.

His victory now marks a significant change in country's power since politics in El Salvador has been dominated over the past three decades by two main parties - the incumbent left-wing FMLN and the conservative Arena.

"Today we won in the first round and we made history," Bukele, who represents the Gana (National Alliance) party, told cheering supporters.

The new president will take office on June 1 for a five-year term.

Weary of violence and economic hardship, voters chose Bukele for his promises to tackle corruption and combat the criminal gangs responsible for one of the world's highest murder rates. These were important vows since sluggish economy and rampant poverty are some of the biggest issues the country faces. Over 30 percent of El Salvador’s 6.6 million inhabitants live below the poverty line and millions struggle to survive on the minimum wage of $300 a month. That economic instability is what is driving thousands of Salvadoran migrants to the US.-Mexico border and is causing additional issues as US President Donald Trump has threatened to cut aid to El Salvador, as well as neighbouring Honduras and Guatemala, over a steady outpouring of migrants heading north. Violence, of course, is also a significant challenge for the new president. El Salvador is one of the most dangerous countries in the world, with a murder rate of about 51 per 100,000 citizens.

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