El Salvador's Bukele shows strong lead for 2024 vote -opinion poll

Salvadorian president Nayib Bukele meets with cast of Sound of Freedom movie in San Salvador

SAN SALVADOR (Reuters) - El Salvador's President Nayib Bukele could comfortably win the 2024 elections with 68.4% of the votes, according to an opinion poll released on Monday, despite debate over his constitutional eligibility to seek re-election.

The survey by the Center for Citizen Studies at the Francisco Gavidia University, found that Bukele's closest opponent, from the right-wing Nationalist Republican Alliance (Arena), had just 4.3% support.

Candidates from the leftist Farabundo Marti National Liberation Front (FMLN) had 2.8% support. Null votes and abstentions made up 9.2% and 9.9%, respectively.

The popular 42-year-old president has a large pool of devout voters, the pollster said, partly due to his controversial crackdown on crime, which has attracted international condemnation but won him domestic support.

"We concluded that in El Salvador there is a kind of cult phenomenon related to the president (Bukele)," the survey's director Oscar Picardo said in a television interview.

The survey was carried out between Aug. 15 and 21, and has a 95% confidence level with a 2.8 percentage point margin of error.

Bukele has said he will run for re-election even though the constitution prohibits consecutive terms.

In 2021 El Salvador's top court, whose members were appointed by congress which is controlled by the president's party, ruled that Bukele could run for re-election.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal will meet in September and begin to register official candidates. They could technically block Bukele, though the chances of that appear to be slim.

Salvadorans will vote on Feb. 4 to elect a president and vice president for the 2024-2029 term.

(Reporting by Nelson Renteria, Writing by Isabel Woodford; editing by Grant McCool)