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El Salvador’s congress approves changes to reform constitution, a move critics call anti-democratic

SAN SALVADOR (AP) — El Salvador’s Congress, which is controlled by President Nayib Bukele 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 a possible path for the leader to stay in power.

Previously, constitutional reforms had to be proposed and approved in one legislature, then ratified in the subsequent Congress following elections. Now, reforms can be swept through with just the vote of three quarters of legislators.

“This is a shot to the democracy of our country. The only thing they are demonstrating is the petty interests and ambition to maintain and not let go of power,” said Rosa Romero, of the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA).

Bukele, a populist strongman, has already made moves that critics say endanger the Central American nation’s fragile democracy.

In addition to going after critics and locking up 1% of his country’s population in his gang crackdown, the leader last year also approved reforms slashing the number of seats in Congress, effectively weighing upcoming elections in his party’s favor.

In February, highly 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 super majority in Congress, effectively allowing Bukele to rule as he may.

The constitutional reform would only further allow the leader to push through his policies, including potentially carrying out more reforms to stay in power.

In an interview with the Associated Press in January, Bukele’s vice president didn’t discard the possibility of the leader seeking a third term if the constitution was changed after repeatedly dodging questions by reporters.

The Monday reform quickly sparked outraged among critics and watchdogs, including Claudia Ortiz, a legislator under the VAMOS party who voted against the reform.

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

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

The measure they eliminated “aimed to preserve the Constitution and protect the people from abuses of temporary legislative majorities,” the statement read.

Source: Yahoo News