Outsider romps to victory in El Salvador presidential vote

El_Salvador_Election_86425 Supporters of the Grand National Alliance for Unity cheer for their presidential candidate Nayib Bukele in San Salvador, El Salvador, Feb. 3, 2019. Bukele, a former mayor of El Salvador's capital, was making a strong run Sunday to end a quarter century of two-party dominance in the crime-plagued Central American nation. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
El_Salvador_Election_16265 Polling officials count ballots shortly after voting ended during presidential election in San Salvador, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. Nayib Bukele, a former mayor of El Salvador's capital, was making a strong run Sunday to end a quarter century of two-party dominance in the crime-plagued Central American nation. (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)
El_Salvador_Elections_55173 National Police's special forces begin a security operation outside the Metropolitan Cathedral in preparation for the presidential election, in San Salvador, El Salvador, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Salvadorans elect a new president on Sunday. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
El_Salvador_Election_47357 Presidential hopeful Nayib Bukele and his wife Gabriela gesture at a polling station as they are surrounded by the press while voting in the presidential election in San Salvador, El Salvador, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. The former mayor of El Salvador's capital was making a strong run Sunday to end a quarter century of two-party dominance in the crime-plagued Central American nation. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
El_Salvador_Election_62087 Presidential candidate for Alianza Republicana Nacionalista (ARENA), Carlos Calleja, addresses supporters during his closing campaign rally in Santa Tecla, El Salvador, Sunday, Jan. 27, 2019. The presidential election is set for Feb. 3. (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)
El_Salvador_Election_49809 A man casts his vote during the presidential election at a polling station in San Salvador, El Salvador, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. Salvadorans are choosing from among a handful of presidential candidates all promising to end corruption, stamp out gang violence and create more jobs in the Central American nation. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
APTOPIX_El_Salvador_Election_52244 Supporters of presidential frontrunner Nayib Bukele, of the Grand National Alliance for Unity, GANA, take part in a rally in San Salvador, El Salvador, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. Salvadorans go to the polls to elect a president on Sunday, Feb. 3. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
El_Salvador_Election_31504 Presidential hopeful Nayib Bukele waves as he leaves a polling station after casting his vote in the presidential election in San Salvador, El Salvador, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. The former mayor of El Salvador's capital was making a strong run Sunday to end a quarter century of two-party dominance in the crime-plagued Central American nation. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
El_Salvador_Election_56871 Supporters of presidential frontrunner Nayib Bukele, of the Grand National Alliance for Unity, GANA, take part in a rally in San Salvador, El Salvador, Wednesday, Jan. 30, 2019. Salvadorans go to the polls to elect a president on Sunday, Feb. 3. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
El_Salvador_Election_47480 Presidential hopeful Nayib Bukele and his wife Gabriela greet supporters at a polling station where they are voting during the presidential election in San Salvador, El Salvador, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. The former mayor of El Salvador's capital was making a strong run Sunday to end a quarter century of two-party dominance in the crime-plagued Central American nation. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
El_Salvador_Election_34375 National Police special forces begin a security operation outside the National Palace in preparation for the presidential election, in San Salvador, El Salvador, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Salvadorans elect a new president on Sunday. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
El_Salvador_Election_44998 Presidential hopeful Nayib Bukele is surrounded by the press at a polling station during the presidential election in San Salvador, El Salvador, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. The former mayor of El Salvador's capital was making a strong run Sunday to end a quarter century of two-party dominance in the crime-plagued Central American nation. (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)
El_Salvador_Elections_75724 A National Police agent stands guard at a polling station, in San Salvador, El Salvador, Saturday, Feb. 2, 2019. Salvadorans elect a new president on Sunday. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
El_Salvador_Election_79094 Presidential candidate for the Alianza Republicana Nacionalista party (ARENA), Carlos Calleja, is surrounded by the press as he arrives to vote at a polling center during the presidential election in San Salvador, El Salvador, Feb. 3, 2019. Salvadorans are choosing from among a handful of presidential candidates all promising to end corruption, stamp out gang violence and create more jobs in the Central American nation. (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)
El_Salvador_Election_33717 Nun Zoila Hernandez shows her fingers to electoral authorities prior to voting during the presidential election at a polling station in San Salvador, El Salvador, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. Salvadorans are choosing from among a handful of presidential candidates all promising to end corruption, stamp out gang violence and create more jobs in the Central American nation. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
El_Salvador_Election_72998 An election volunteer helps a woman in a wheelchair reach her polling station during the presidential election in San Salvador, El Salvador, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. Salvadorans are choosing from among a handful of presidential candidates all promising to end corruption, stamp out gang violence and create more jobs in the Central American nation. (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)
El_Salvador_Election_14530 Presidential candidate for the Alianza Republicana Nacionalista party (ARENA), Carlos Calleja, and his wife Andrea give a thumbs up to the press, showing their thumbs are inked which means they voted, during the presidential election in San Salvador, El Salvador, Feb. 3, 2019. Salvadorans are choosing from among a handful of presidential candidates all promising to end corruption, stamp out gang violence and create more jobs in the Central American nation. (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)
El_Salvador_Election_68804 A voter searches for his name on voter lists at a polling station during the presidential election in San Salvador, El Salvador, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. Salvadorans are choosing from among a handful of presidential candidates all promising to end corruption, stamp out gang violence and create more jobs in the Central American nation. (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)
APTOPIX_El_Salvador_Election_72998 An election volunteer helps a woman in a wheelchair reach her voting table during the presidential election in San Salvador, El Salvador, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. Salvadorans are choosing from among a handful of presidential candidates all promising to end corruption, stamp out gang violence and create more jobs in the Central American nation. (AP Photo/Salvador Melendez)
El_Salvador_Election_20220 Supporters of the Grand National Alliance for Unity cheer for their presidential candidate Nayib Bukele in San Salvador, El Salvador, Feb. 3, 2019. Bukele, a former mayor of El Salvador's capital, was making a strong run Sunday to end a quarter century of two-party dominance in the crime-plagued Central American nation. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
El_Salvador_Election_79490 A man casts his vote during the presidential election at a polling station in San Salvador, El Salvador, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. Salvadorans are choosing from among a handful of presidential candidates all promising to end corruption, stamp out gang violence and create more jobs in the Central American nation. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
El_Salvador_Election_58935 A man receives his ballot during the presidential election at a polling station in San Salvador, El Salvador, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. Salvadorans are choosing from among a handful of presidential candidates all promising to end corruption, stamp out gang violence and create more jobs in the Central American nation. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
El_Salvador_Election_52234 A National Police agent casts his vote during the presidential election at a polling station in San Salvador, El Salvador, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2019. Salvadorans are choosing from among a handful of presidential candidates all promising to end corruption, stamp out gang violence and create more jobs in the Central American nation. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
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SAN SALVADOR, El Salvador (AP) — A former mayor of El Salvador’s capital romped to victory in Sunday’s presidential election, winning more votes than his two closest rivals combined to end a quarter century of two-party dominance in the crime-plagued Central America nation.

The Supreme Electoral Court declared Nayib Bukele the winner, saying he had nearly 54 percent of the votes, with nearly 90 percent of ballots counted. Carlos Callejas of the Nationalist Republican Alliance was far behind in second with less than 32 percent, while even farther back were former Foreign Minister Hugo Martinez of the Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front and a minor party candidate.

Bukele surpassed the 50 percent of the votes needed to avoid a March runoff, and he had already claimed victory before a jubilant crowd in the capital and invited supporters to celebrate in the streets.

“We have full certainty that we have won the presidency, and we have won in the first round,” Bukele said.

All four candidates promised to end corruption, stamp out gang violence and create more jobs, with crushing crime at the top of the agenda. Roughly 67,000 Salvadorans belong to gangs that terrorize their communities with extortion, murder and other forms of violence.

The candidates proposed creating economic opportunities and restoring social values to dissuade Salvadorans from engaging in criminal behavior.

There were no reports of major problems in voting.

Bukele, 37, made his political debut in 2012 as a small-town mayor with the now-ruling FMLN and won election in the capital three years later, automatically making him a potential presidential contender. But his frequent criticism of the leftist party’s leadership led to his expulsion, and he wound up as the unlikely standard-bearer of a small conservative party known as the Grand Alliance for National Unity, whose initials — GANA — mean “win” in Spanish.

The FMLN and the conservative Alliance, known as ARENA, have dominated Salvadoran politics since a 1992 peace deal that ended a brutal civil war. But both parties have been stained by corruption scandals and neither has been able to stem gang violence.

“I came to vote because I want the country to change, because we are tired of so much corruption,” said Estela Henriquez, 27, at a polling place in the capital.

More than 4,500 election observers, including representatives of the Organization of American States and the European Union, were on hand.

El Salvador is small both in size and population, with just 6.5 million people. Close to a third of its households live in poverty, while the World Bank says per capita income is $3,560.

Salvadorans searching for a better life have joined recent caravans of migrants trekking through Mexico toward the U.S.

Copyright © 2019 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, written or redistributed.

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