Alleged Voting Irregularities Mar Honduran Elections
Left leaning opposition Libre Party decries electoral fraud, refuses to recognize official results indicating win for ruling right wing National Party
David Dougherty: On the afternoon of Monday, November 25th, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of Honduras was projecting the ruling National Party candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez as the winner of Sunday’s presidential elections with more than half of the votes counted. Before announcing his candidacy, Hernandez was the President of the National Congress, and has run on a campaign pledging to combat the country’s soaring levels of violence by further militarizing the streets.
Juan Orlando Hernandez, Presidential Candidate, National Party: Today the Honduran people chose peace over political violence, they chose truth over lies, efficiency over indolence, brotherhood over separation, this is what the Honduran people chose, and just like 4 years ago, the Honduran people are again saying that this democracy, although it is not perfect, above all our political system, today the Honduran people have voted to give it another chance.
David Dougherty: Sunday’s elections were the first in which the political opposition has participated since the 2009 coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya from power. His wife, Xiomara Castro, was the candidate for the left-leaning Libre Party, which sprung from the National Popular Resistance Front movement formed shortly after the 2009 coup. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal projected Castro as the runner up in the hotly contested election. Honduras has long grappled with fraudulent elections, and Sunday’s vote was marred by a number of irregularities, causing the political opposition and numerous electoral observers to cry foul. Ana Lucia Perez participated in Sunday’s elections as an observer with the Women’s Human Rights Observatory in the Honduran capital of Tegucigalpa.
Ana Lucia Perez, Honduran Elections Observer, Women’s Human Rights Observatory: We have the assassination of two members of the Libre Party in the Francisco Morazan Department on the night of Saturday November 23rd…we have also seen the intimidation of international observers from El Salvador who were staying at a hotel in Tegucigalpa where they were approached by armed immigration officials and were demanded to show their papers and interrogated as to why they were in the country in a violent and intimidating manner, we have also received complaints of forms of voter extortion in certain election centers where the National Party offered voters discount cards for local supermarkets in exchange for their vote…
David Dougherty: According to Lisa Kubiske, the United States ambassador in Honduras, Sunday’s elections ran smoothly.
Lisa Kubiske, United States Ambassador, Honduras: In the voting centers that I visited, everything was very calm, it was a success, a good quantity of people were arriving, all of the required information was posted on the walls, there were no major incidents, in this sense things went well.
David Dougherty: At other voting centers not covered in the Ambassador’s official visits, observers encountered a far different reality.
Ana Lucia Perez, Honduran Elections Observer: We also witnessed irregularities at voting centers where certain voter lists turned up missing, or where people would be listed as deceased although they were living, or where the deceased were presented as living eligible voters, some people arrived to vote and were told that they had already voted, someone else had used their identity to vote…we also saw in some areas the military did not let the public view the vote count in spite of the fact that the electoral law states that all people may attend the vote count.
David Dougherty: Sunday’s vote kicked off with an early morning massacre of 5 people just meters away from a voting center in the remote Mosquitia region. There were numerous reports of heavily armed soldiers militarizing opposition radio and television transmission antennas. The ski-masked Military Police had also reportedly attempted to forcefully enter a local campaign office of the Libre Party in Tegucigalpa less than 36 hours before elections. Xiomara Castro and Libre Party supporters have faced a tough campaign against the well-financed political machine of the National Party, which is backed by the traditional political and economic elites of Honduras and has been in power since the controversial elections held in 2009 in the wake of the coup it helped to orchestrate. Libre Party candidates and activists have born the brunt of political threats and assassinations in the electoral season, with at least 20 party and family members assassinated since May of 2012. The list of additional opposition activists who have died as a result of targeted political assassinations since the 2009 coup is much higher. Adrienne Pine is a professor of anthropology and author of the book Working Hard, Drinking Hard: On Violence and Survival in Honduras. She has been residing in Honduras and teaching courses at the National Autonomous University of Honduras in Tegucigalpa.