Bukele holds majority in El Salvador presidential vote in early results

Presidential candidate Nayib Bukele of the Great National Alliance (GANA) greets supporters before casting his vote in a presidential election in San Salvador, El Salvador, February 3, 2019. REUTERS/ Victor Pena

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) – Salvadoran presidential hopeful Nayib Bukele, a former mayor campaigning as an anti-corruption outsider, was on track to win a first-round victory in Sunday’s presidential election, according to early results reported by the electoral tribunal.

Bukele had 52.2 percent of votes with 24.7 percent of polling stations counted, the electoral tribunal said at 8 p.m. local time, three hours after polls closed. It was not immediately clear when a definitive result would be available.

Bukele needs more than 50 percent of all votes to win the presidency outright, which would end the two-party system that has governed the country for three decades.

Bukele, 37, has capitalized on the anti-establishment feeling sweeping elections across the region and further afield, as voters seek an alternative to traditional parties.

Since the end of its bloody civil war in 1992, El Salvador has been governed by the ruling leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) and its rival, conservative Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA).

Though he describes himself as from the left and was expelled from the FMLN, Bukele has formed a coalition with parties including a right-wing one which together have just 11 seats in the legislature.

“The two groups that created the war still want to keep governing, and what’s more, they’re corrupt,” Bukele told reporters after voting in the capital. Supporters in bright blue t-shirts surrounded him, chanting, “Yes we can.”

Pollster Mitofsky found in a January poll that Bukele had 57 percent of voter support, while a poll by Gallup showed him with 42 percent. Both polls show ARENA’s Carlos Calleja in second place.

A runoff, is there is one, would be held in March.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria and Noe Torres; Writing by Christine Murray and Daina Beth Solomon; Editing by Rosalba O’Brien, Jeffrey Benkoe and Sonya Hepinstall

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