Monday, November 25, 2013

Honduras elections: first thoughts

I am heading out early this Monday morning for a get together of the catechists and children in one of the most distant parts of the parish. Before I go, I want to write a few reflections on yesterday’s elections here in Honduras.

Yesterday Honduras held its elections. The participation was higher than expected. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) extended voting for an extra hour.
Politicking near a polling station in Santa Rosa
There were some problems in various parts of the country but from what I’ve read and heard not a lot of vote tampering or dirty tricks during the voting process.

There were a few efforts to intimidate observers or prevent them from observing,  even those with TSE credentials.

There seem to have been a few more problems when the polls were closed and the counting began. It’s supposed to be an open process, but in a few places measures were taken that excluded people, including accredited observers.

The first results were released about 8:15 pm, with 24% of the votes counted by the TSE:
1) Juan Orlando Hernández= 249,660 votes (34.97%),
2) Xiomara Castro de Zelaya = 202,501 votes (28.36%)
3) Mauricio Villeda = 149,254 votes (20.9%)
4) Salvador Nasralla = 107, 563 votes (15.07%)

The problem: both Juan Orlando Hernández and Xiomara Castro had claimed the presidency.

At 12:22 AM The TSE announced that 54 percent of the tallies had been counted, Juan Orlando Hernandez with 34.27 percent of the vote, and Xiomara Castro 29.67 percent. (No, I didn't stay up that late; I just read the report this morning.)

Already I am reading people who are declaring it a fraud. Others are saying that the official reports from many of the polling places here Xiomara won have not been reported by the TSE – some saying it was deliberate.

A US friend of mine who was an international observer in Tegucigalpa maintains that Juan Orlando Hernández was losing in almost every one of the voting places  where she and about 180 others were observers. I am especially curious about where his support comes from.

The next few days will be tense. Keep us in your prayers.

One thing seemed clear – the two party monopoly has been broken. For more than one hundred years power had been shared alternately between the National Party and the Liberal Party. People also voted for parties – not for candidates. You were a blue or a red – as usually were your parents. You didn’t necessarily know its policies, but you were connected to them. Part of this was the way the parties exerted control and gave out incentives – from jobs to bags of cement.

Last night I was able to connect by internet with Radio Progresso, a project of the Honduran Jesuit’s social project. I was impressed by their professional coverage. Their position is very definitely leaning to the Resistance. During a break one of the songs they played was related to the Resistance movement that grew up after the 2009 coup.

Their director, Father Ismael Moreno, Padre Melo, is a great commentator. But what struck me was his call for respect for the TSE, even if you disagree with the results.

But Juan Orlando Hernández cannot govern alone if he really wins – even with his party. There will be a need for taking other parties into account.

I will continue to comment when I get back to having internet connections.

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