Last weekend El Salvador chose Nayib Armando Bukele Ortez, 37, as president. The path of the businessman and former mayor to the presidency was cumbersome, marked by struggle to find a political party – which would ultimately have been a good omen, because polls suggest that Bukele's supporters were not satisfied with the traditional political parties in the country.
Bukele has called himself a left man and started his political life in the left Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN). Eventually, however, he ended up as president with the conservative party Great Alliance for National Unity (GANA).
"It is difficult to see where it fits in current Latin American politics," says Mike Allison, professor of political science at the University of Scranton and former Fulbright scholar at El Salvador.
"Bukele is considered a populist, an outsider candidate who runs into the system, he says he comes from the left, but he had to join a political party of the right to flee."
An outsider candidate
Bukele, who often appears in a shiny leather motorcycle jacket and slicked-back hair, is a Yamaha motorcycle distributor and a declared supporter of Salvadoran soccer team Alianza. His wife, psychologist and ballerina Gabriela Rodríguez, accompanies him on most political activities. In January Bukele announced that the couple would soon be parents who tweet a photo of an ultrasound.
He distinguished himself from traditional presidential candidates because of his reluctance towards the media. "Bukele is a proponent of technology and speaks directly to people rather than through traditional media," Allison added.
He was also a fierce critic of previous presidents, with campaign scripts such as "There is enough money when no one steals" and "Return what was stolen", referring to the alleged disappearance of funds during the administration of former presidents Francisco Flores and Antonio Saca.
Flores died in January 2016, when he waited for a trial date for the transfer of funds donated by Taiwan. In September 2018, Saca was sentenced to 10 years in prison for embezzlement and money laundering.
Bukele & # 39; s strange path to the presidency
Bukele started his political career in 2012 as the FMLN-supported mayor of the small town of Nuevo Cuscatlán. In 2015, he won the San Salvador elections, defeating a conservative candidate whose party, the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), had ruled two terms.
After Bukele became mayor, the political relationship between him and his party began to deteriorate. Some analysts say the FMLN Bukele felt too harsh as a critic of the then government of Salvador Sánchez Cerén.
In September 2017, municipal author Xóchitl Marchelli Bukele accused "throwing an apple" and calling her a "witch" at a meeting of the municipal council of San Salvador, which Bukele denied. The following month the FMLN Bukele expelled, referring to Marchelli's allegations and accused Bukele of promoting division within the party.
Bukele took Facebook Live to announce that he would start a new political party called "New Ideas", but it turned out to be a short-lived enterprise. Struggling to acknowledge the emerging party with the highest electoral court, while presidential elections emerged, Bukele left New Ideas and joined an existing party called Democratic Change.
In July 2018, Democratic Change was concluded with three other parties because it failed to achieve a minimum number of votes in the 2015 elections. Bukele had to find a new political party to support his candidacy.
Only six months before the elections, Bukele finally found GANA, a party that could continue to preside over. And indeed it did.
An earlier version of this story incorrectly mentioned the name of Professor of Political Science, Mike Allison. This has been corrected.