Honduras’ contested results from its Nov. 24 election threaten to unleash civil unrest and repression that could further destabilize the country. Amid widespread allegations of fraud, vote buying and voting irregularities, the Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE) — Honduras’ electoral authority — announced on Nov. 26 that conservative National Party candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez had an irreversible lead. Both Hernandez and left-leaning LIBRE party candidate Xiomara Castro claimed victory on election night. Castro based her claim on LIBRE’s exit polls that showed a substantial lead. Her husband and former president Mel Zelaya – who was ousted in a 2009 coup – also contested the results, noting that the vote tally from 20 percent of the polling stations announced by the TSE contradicted the actual vote count from polling stations. Anti-Corruption party candidate Salvador Nasralla has also impugned the accuracy of the vote counting process. In the cloud of election violence and suspicions, outside pressure from the international community, especially the United States, is critical to ensure that democracy prevails in Honduras and to protect those vulnerable to state sponsored repression. However, the signals from the U.S. so far suggests that it is pleased with the results, even if they are tainted by fraud and intimidation.
The presidential campaign and vote were marred by allegations of fraud, intimidation and violence. Prior to the election, observers questioned the lack of a conducive political environment, given the ruling National Party’s control over all branches of government, including the Public Ministry (the office charged with investigating and prosecuting crimes), the judiciary, the military, the electoral authority and congress.
In some cases, voter rolls listed registered voters as deceased, listed dead voters as registered, and inexplicably assigned some voters’ polling sites to more distant locations. To ensure the transparency and integrity of the voting and counting process, TSE proposed staffing individual voting tables by representatives of all nine political parties. Given their limited capacity, however, it was unlikely for smaller parties to cover all 5,000 voting centers, some of which had more than 20 voting tables. A TSE official confirmed to a team of international observers allegations that the National party was buying credentials from smaller parties, enabling a dominant presence at individual voting tables and raising the possibility of fraud. LIBRE party representatives reported receiving death threats for their refusal to sell party credentials. After the election, the International Federation for Human Rights expressed its concern for the vulnerability of opposition activists and denounced conditions that may have slanted the vote illegitimately in advance of election day, such as the complete lack of transparency in campaign financing, and Hernandez’s open financial inducements to support the party, including job offers and the widespread distribution of discount cards to party members.