Speaker: Manuel Meléndez-Sánchez, PhD Student in Government, Harvard University
Moderator: Steven Levitsky, Professor of Government, Harvard University
On February 3, 2019, El Salvador held its sixth presidential election since the end of Salvadoran Civil War. Two weeks before the election, Nayib Bukele, a populist with clear authoritarian tendencies, held a comfortable lead in the polls. In the wake of soaring homicide rates and a series of corruption scandals, El Salvador’s two main parties—ARENA and the FMLN—appeared weaker than ever. And while Bukele accused “the establishment” of trying to “perpetrate a fraud” to “steal the election,” ARENA and the FMLN condemned Bukele’s “anti-democratic” attitudes and “authoritarian” ambitions. In short: As the election approached, El Salvador’s young, unlikely democracy seemed poised to face one of its toughest challenges yet.
This seminar will explore what ultimately happened on election day, what comes next, and what it all might mean for the future of El Salvador and the region.
Manuel Meléndez-Sánchez is a PhD Student in Government at Harvard University. He has written extensively about Salvadoran politics.