Electoral crisis in Honduras

Author : Candice LABIDI.

On November 26th, 2017, the presidential elections took place in Honduras. This day, the outgoing president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, was re-elected. This election, although official, is very controversial for several reasons. Since the end of November until December 26th when Washington recognized the results of the election, the country has been torn apart with violence.  Retrospective on this electoral crisis that has brought many confrontations.

The outcome of the election: start of the confrontations

Even before the results, Hernandez’s decision to run for election sparked a controversy. Simply because in Honduras, the constitution does not permit to the outgoing president to run for election, yet the Supreme Court authorized Hernandez to do so.

The candidates were on one side, Juan Orlando Hernandez, National Party, and on the other side, Salvador Nasralla, left-wing party, a TV entertainer without any political experience. Let’s go back more into details on what happened: on Sunday November 26th, the polling stations closed. Only the following day, there was a press release published announcing the first results. Salvador Nasralla was given winner and was way ahead in the polls. However, during the counting week, the trend has reversed and Hernandez caught up on Nasralla and won the election with 42,92% against 41,42% for Nasralla. This sudden change happened right after a series of IT bugs that occurred during the counting by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (SET). Soon, Honduran people started to suspect a rigged election which led to a wave of violence: fights between the opposition and the army started and resulted in 7 deaths and many injured people within the week. In response, Hernandez proclaimed a state of emergency on December 1st for 10 days with a curfew at 6 P.M. However, Salvador Nasralla did not wish to leave things like that. He asked his followers not to accept the results of this doubtful election. Until today, there has been 14 deaths according to Amnesty International and 24 deaths according to the opposition.

The potential solutions

In order to end the political crisis, Honduras has two choices: a deal between the two candidates or a new election. Obviously, the conservative one, Hernandez leans towards a dialogue, but the opposition strongly disagrees with this solution. Manuel Zelaya, former president ally of Nasralla and chief of the opposition (Alianza de Oposicion contra la Dictatura) said he will only agree to a dialogue if “The winning of Nasralla is acknowledged”. Nasralla declared: “Yes, I want to establish a dialogue (with M.Hernandez) to make him understand that if he  is in in power during four years and the Honduran people is against him, the country will be ungovernable”. He asked for the control of 5 000 fraudulent official reports that would have been delivered after the informatic breakdown. Moreover, he went to Washington to denounce this usurped victory and brought evidence: 5 759 ballot papers would have been transported by the SET and were subject of a particular counting which would have led to the victory of Hernandez. The left-wing candidate requested the international community and the Organization of American States (OAS) to not accept this result and to suspend the exterior help Honduras benefits from as long as Juan Orlando Hernandez is president. The EU electoral observation is in favour for a recount of the votes to “ensure the respect of the Honduran people’s vote” according to Marisa Matias, member of European Parliament. Besides, Luis Almagro, general secretary of OAS, declared that due to the troubles during the counting, he was in favour of a new election but all the high officials of the U.S did not share this view…

Final word

Finally, Washington recognized the victory of Juan Orlando Hernandez on Friday December 22nd. Salvador Nasralla gave up protestations: “With the decision of the U.S, I am offside”. Washington declared that the opposition did not bring new evidence and nothing permitted to say that the results were fraudulent. Nasralla announced the end of his political career and the end of the alliance with Manuel Zelaya. The U.S encourage the Honduran people to settle this conflict with dialogue and not violence. The land of Uncle Sam invests hundreds of millions of dollars to fund assistant programs. A political stability can only be good for the U.S. However, the decision to put aside the protestations of Nasralla, the controversy about the counting and the violent counterattack of the army suggest that demonstrations will go on…

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