Honduran Elections A Tug Of War Between Elite And Democratic Interests

On the 26th of November, the Republic of Honduras held General Elections for its president, deputy officials, and local mayors. During the first results announced the morning after, by the electoral commission (TSE), the opposition presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla, who represents the Alliance of the Opposition Against the Dictatorship was leading the polls. However, as the Washington Post reports, after suspending the vote count for one and a half days counting was finally resumed, showing surprisingly that right-wing incumbent president Juan Orlando Hernandez from the National Party led by a small margin of 1.5%.

This suspicious event has been regarded by many as electoral fraud and has resulted in social unrest and civil conflict. According to the National Human Rights Commission of Honduras, 16 people have been killed and over 1,600 have been arrested during the turmoil. This is not Honduras’ first attempt at “building representative democracies and fighting against corruption and crime.”

As Eric Olson, the Director of the Latin American Program at the Wilson Centre argues, Honduras is a lesson of “the kinds of crisis and violence that can emerge when transparency is undermined to guarantee political favour.” Moreover, the political situation has worsened due to the United States continually being seen as supporting the current regime, raising questions of the impartiality of international actors.

Adam Isacson, a Senior Program Associate at the Washington Office on Latin America said, “the certification and the weak embassy statements so far tell us how low a priority democracy and human rights are on this administration’s list of US interests.” These series of events demonstrate that the national interests of many countries do not necessarily include respecting the democratic principles that uphold human rights in other nations.

Considering Honduras’ recent setbacks such as its’ involvement in drugs trafficking, organized crime, and human right violations, this political crisis is undoubtedly one more indication of the corruption and political instability existent in some Southern countries. Despite the efforts of national and international actors including electoral process observers, there is a lack of transparency within the governments. This opaqueness appears to be favouring certain political parties that seek to look after their own interests, but the real victims are a society involved that suffers the consequences of falsified electoral results. There have also been several similar allegations of electoral fraud results in neighbouring Latin American countries such as Haiti (2010), Nicaragua (2011), Venezuela (2013) and Ecuador (2017) -all these cases resulted in social and political instability and civilian casualties.

Honduras’ history has been marked by various authoritarian military regimes that have caused repression and large-scale violation of human rights. During the 1980s, democratic processes were held to elect the new representatives of the country in order to improve Hondurans living conditions. In 2009, a coup d’état took place as a consequence of a confrontation between the president Manuel Zelaya and the reigning political powers, making way for the National Party to take power. Since then, the National Party has been managing the country continuously with the support of the United States. Therefore, it must be asked whether these latest election results are legitimate, or are just a continuation of puppeteer policies employed by powerful international interests.

Certainly, the current political crisis in Honduras has deteriorated economic and social conditions in the country. The events that occurred during the most recent elections are not only about electoral fraud and the struggle for power but also about other connected issues. The protests after the electoral results were, in fact, a response to social discontent with the incumbent regime. However, the government responded violently, creating chaos, insecurity, casualties and further political uncertainty.

Ingrid Valladares Gonzalez
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