Between November 26th, the day that Honduras held its Presidential election, and December 17th, when the country’s electoral tribunal finally declared a winner, a reported twenty-two protesters were killed; the sister of the incumbent President died in a helicopter crash; and the opposition candidate, who for weeks had declared himself the President-elect, after an apparent upset, had a child. (He tweeted photos from the hospital.) For all the twists in the story, the outcome was nevertheless predictable: the incumbent, Juan Orlando Hernández, an American ally representing the Partido Nacional, which has been in power since 2009, officially won by fifty thousand votes.
The Partido Nacional controls not only the country’s highest court (which contrived to let Hernández run for a second term, despite a constitutional ban on the reëlection of Presidents) but also the national legislature, the military, and the electoral tribunal charged with certifying the results. And yet, on the morning of November 27th, with close to sixty per cent of the ballots tallied, a former telecaster named Salvador Nasralla, who represented a diverse coalition known as the Alliance Against the Dictatorship, emerged with a five-percentage-point lead. One of the four magistrates on the electoral tribunal conceded that Nasralla’s advantage appeared to be “irreversible,” given the distribution of votes. But then the tribunal delayed announcing anything for a day and a half. Its chief magistrate, a longtime Partido Nacional official, appeared before the cameras to offer an explanation for the delay, declaring that slightly more than a million votes still hadn’t been counted. They were being delivered, by hand, to the tribunal’s headquarters in the capital, Tegucigalpa.
The final count was under way by the middle of the week, and, according to the tribunal, Hernández regained the lead. Nasralla and the Alliance appealed to observers from the European Union and the Organization of American States, which alleged significant irregularities. Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across the country. The government imposed a curfew and made arrests, but the protests continued. A group of police, who have typically been staunchly pro-Hernández, joined demonstrators in Tegucigalpa. “We’re tired of fighting among ourselves,” one of them told cheering onlookers. “You are the people, and we’re also the people.” The Liberal Party, whose candidate finished third in the Presidential race and acknowledged Nasralla as the winner, joined the Alliance in calling for a recount.