El Salvador electoral tribunal green lights Bukele's re-election bid

El Salvador's President Bukele speaks during the inauguration of the 3 de Febrero hydroelectric power plant in San Luis de La Reina

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) -El Salvador's electoral tribunal on Friday approved President Nayib Bukele's candidacy in next year's presidential election, where he will seek a second term that would keep him in office until 2029 if reelected.

The decision comes a week after the 42-year-old president formally filed paperwork to run for re-election, despite concerns over his constitutional eligibility to seek a consecutive term.

Members of the electoral tribunal are elected by Congress, which is controlled by the president's New Ideas party. Of the five members of the tribunal, four ruled in favor of Bukele's re-election bid, while one abstained.

While critics question Bukele's ability to seek a second term, citing a constitutional prohibition, the country's top court ruled he could run in 2021. The judges on that court were also appointed by Congress.

In January of this year, Congress approved a reform that punished those who prevented the registration of candidates for elections with up to 15 years in prison.

Bukele, the former mayor of San Salvador, enjoys massive popularity stemming largely from a sweeping crackdown on the Central American country's violent gangs, with over 75,000 suspected gang members arrested to date.

Violent crime has plummeted since the policy was launched early last year.

A recent poll conducted by the Center for Citizen Studies at the Francisco Gavidia University gave New Ideas nearly 70% support, compared to just over 4% for its closest competitor.

(Reporting by Gerardo Arbaiza; Writing by Brendan O'Boyle; Editing by Isabel Woodford and Josie Kao)