El Salvador’s top court has ruled that the country’s president can serve two consecutive terms, opening the door for incumbent Nayib Bukele to stand for re-election in 2024.
Issued late on Friday, the ruling was handed down by judges appointed by lawmakers from Bukele’s ruling party in May after they had removed the previous justices, a step that was decried by critics as a “coup d’etat” and drew strong criticism from the United States and other foreign powers.
The constitutional chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice ordered the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to enable a president who had not been in office “in the immediately preceding period to participate in the electoral contest for a second occasion”.
The decision could potentially make popular but divisive Bukele, 40, the first president to serve more than five years in office since the 1950s.
Bukele’s government has also readied a constitutional reform that aims to extend the presidential term to six years from five, and include the possibility of revoking the president’s mandate, among other steps.
That has yet to go to El Salvador’s Congress, which Bukele’s party and its allies control.
There was no immediate comment by Bukele on the court’s ruling.
In 2014, the same court ruled that presidents would have to wait 10 years after leaving office to be re-elected.
Elected in 2019, Bukele enjoys broad support in El Salvador over his promises to fight organised crime and improve security in the violence-racked country.
But he has long been accused of authoritarian tendencies.
Last year, Bukele dispatched troops to the country’s parliament in a bid to pressure lawmakers.