September 26, 2018 / 10:34 PM / 6 months ago

El Salvador outsider opens wide lead in presidential poll

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - Nayib Bukele, former mayor of El Salvador’s capital, is the frontrunner expected to win the presidential election in February in the impoverished and crime-ridden Central American country, according to a poll released on Wednesday.

It marks the first time in three decades that a candidate from an outsider party has a real shot of winning the five-year term as president when Salvadorans vote on Feb. 3.

The incumbent leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) has been in power since 2009, after the main right-wing party, the Nationalist Republican Alliance (ARENA), ruled for two decades.

Bukele, a 37-year-old businessman of the right-wing Great Alliance for National Unity party (GANA) has a 25-point lead over his nearest rival with 45 percent of voter intentions, according to the CID/Gallup poll.

Businessman Carlos Calleja of ARENA has 20 percent support in the poll. The candidate for the FMLN, former Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez, has 7 percent.

The CID/ Gallup was taken between Sept. 14 and 22.

To win the presidency in El Salvador a candidate must get over 50 percent of votes, so as things stand, the election would likely be decided in a runoff, they added.

The former San Salvador mayor was kicked out of FMLN in October 2017, accused of dividing the party and throwing an apple at and insulting a female member of the party. He joined GANA after time had run out to register his own political party.

Bukele denies the incident occurred.

Rampant gang violence, a sluggish economy and high profile corruption cases will likely be key voter issues.

Reporting by Nelson Renteria; Writing by Anthony Esposito; Editing by Diane Craft

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