Magazine article Washington Report on the Hemisphere

Disappearing Behind the Gun-Smoke: Honduran Election Politics

Magazine article Washington Report on the Hemisphere

Disappearing Behind the Gun-Smoke: Honduran Election Politics

Article excerpt

With its presidential primaries approaching in November 2012, once again, Honduras faces the uncomfortable uncertainty of its election politics, some three years following the coup d'état and the country's subsequent constitutional crisis. While there is still more than ample reason to criticize the Honduran government for the forced removal of President Manuel Zelaya, pressing security and transparency issues warrant greater attention to what took place during that period. The influx of significant amounts of drug money into the country may already have tainted the campaign funds of at least several of the primary candidates, particularly in the campaigns of National Party member Juan Orlando Hernández and Libre Party member Xiomara Castro. For a pragmatic approach to the transparency issue, one should focus on growing concerns of narco -corruption and the impunity that has led to unprecedented violence against the Honduran public. These two factors impose a significant challenge to the strength of Honduras' democracy as the country advances toward elections in November 2013.

The Constitutional Crisis of 2009

In the first half of 2009, members of the judiciary and the National Congress grew concerned about a constitutional referendum that would have allowed Liberal Party President Manuel Zelaya to attempt to stand for reelection, which would have required amending the constitutional mandate of the one-term limit designed by Honduras officials to prevent a return to dictatorship. The Supreme Court issued warnings to Zelaya, demanding that his administration cease the promotion of the referendum. The tension within the government culminated with the Honduran Supreme Court ordering Zelaya's removal. On June 28, 2009, the day the referendum was to be held, Zelaya's house was raided and he was forced into exile by members of the Honduran military acting on behest of the Supreme Court. Interim president Roberto Micheletti fulfilled the rest of Zelaya's term before the presidential elections were held in November of 2009. U.S. observers among others, monitored the elections, which witnessed the victory of Porfirio Lobo Sosa of the National Party, while the ousted president remained in exile.

Zelaya finally returned to Honduras in May 2010, following an agreement brokered by former Costa Rican president Oscar Arias, which was accepted by the Lobo administration. The thousands who greeted Zelaya on his arrival back to Tegucigalpa represented a movement that eventually coalesced into the National Front of Popular Resistance (NFPR). Supporters of the NFPR, known as Resistencia by fellow Hondurans, consist of mostly poor Hondurans opposed to the political ideology of the right-wing National Party, who were disenchanted by the workings of the left-leaning Liberal Party. The NFPR continues to fight against Zelaya's removal, but their platform has grown to include movements against questionable business practices among the wealthy Honduran elite.

The Probable Candidates

The candidates who are running for the country's highest office are a varied mix of members from the Zelaya and Lobo administrations. Perhaps the most prominent is Juan Orlando Hernandez, the current president of the Honduran National Congress and member of President Lobo's National Party. Hernandez is considered by some Hondurans to be the most powerful figure in the country. Despite these assessments, a recent poll by CID -Gallup found sympathy for the National Party at a paltry 32 percent. However, the Liberal Party of Honduras scored worse, with an estimated support of about 28 percent, reflecting the growing distrust of the Honduran political elite. Mauricio Villeda, a prominent lawyer and son of an ex-president, has emerged as a strong candidate from Zelaya's ex-party affiliation. He will expect strong competition from Yani Rosenthal, a member of Zelaya's old administration and a current representative in the Honduran National Congress.

For the first time since the advent of democracy in the country, a third party is winning some backing. …

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