The elections held in Honduras on November 24, 2013 signified a critical moment in the country’s history. Hondurans, as well as the international community, voiced concerns about whether or not there was the potential for a fair election in a country plagued with intimidation and violence. Members of both the United States House of Representatives and the United States Senate wrote to John Kerry, the United States Secretary of State, indicating their fears for the upcoming election (Weisbrot, 2013). Primarily because of the 2009 military coup, where elected president Manuel Zelaya was overthrown, Hondurans wondered whether or not this election would help to restore faith in the electoral system.
One of the 2009 coup’s biggest supporters and former president of Congress, Juan Orlando Hernandez, represents the ruling National Party in this election. Hernandez wants to increase the presence of the Honduran military on the streets to combat gangs and drug violence. In contrast, Manuel Zelaya’s wife, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, is representing the Libre Party. This organization was founded in opposition to the military coup that displaced Zelaya as president. Castro’s campaign promises to rewrite the Honduran constitution in order to build a more solid foundation under which Honduras can grow. The third largest political presence in this election is the newly created Anti-Corruption Party, led by a sportscaster with limited political experience named Salvador Nasralla.
According to the official election results, “Xiomara Castro won 28.8% of the votes, behind the ruling National Party’s 36.8%...the Anti-Corruption Party headed by Salvador Nasralla, received 13.5% in the official tally” (Weisbrot, 2013). Both the European Union and the Organization of American States produced observatory reports, praising this election for high voter turnout and voter transparency (Robbins, 2013). Xiomara Castro of the Libre Party responded to the results by challenging Hernandez’s victory, claiming that the election was fraudulent. Her party’s supporters have also taken action by instigating peaceful riots to voice their desire for a recount of the votes.
Castro’s denial of the official election results brings into question whether she refuses to accept defeat or whether she truly believes that this election was fraudulent (Robbins, 2013). Despite the high praise this election received, there were several noted irregularities that took place. The Human Rights Federation electoral observation team reported about the logistics of the election as well as its human rights context. Their reports indicated three primary areas of concern. The first had to do with voter incentives. The National Party set up booth outside of election locations, “where voters could pick up an envelope with their name on it with a card with discounts for telephone, food, medical care and pharmacy products” (Haugaard, 2013). Another report by Leo Gabriel of Australia, who denounced the European Union’s overall report, indicated alliances between smaller parties and the National Party. This resulted in the buying and selling of voter credentials, allowing the National Party to have extra representatives at tables where ballots were counted (Weisbrot, 2013).
Another irregularity concerned the ability for Hondurans to vote. Many Hondurans could not vote because they were declared dead at the voting site. In contrast, many others voted under names of those whose deaths had gone undocumented. In this case voter fraud is hard to detect because it is difficult to find and discard these false votes, and it is also impossible to account for those Hondurans who were turned away. The third irregularity in the recent elections revolved around the oppressive military presence at voting sites. It was the role of the Honduran military to transport and guard ballot boxes. They also carried automatic weapons with them at voting sites, and there were several reports of Hondurans being frisked at specified voting locations (Haugaard, 2013).
The 2013 elections have provided Hondurans with a chance to advance democratic ideals in the country. So far, however, this doesn’t seem like a positive step for the nation. Part of an ideal democracy is fair and free elections followed by smooth power transitions. Neither of these has occurred, primarily because of the election’s irregularities as well as the Libre Party’s rejection of the official election results. According to the United Nations, Honduras is the most violent nation in the world (Cota & Sabo, 2013). Political stability is a fundamental first step to reducing violence. The aftermath of these elections suggests that the nation is far off from achieving this kind of solidity. After reports of voter fraud were published, many Hondurans felt as though the faith they had placed in the electoral system was violated (Haugaard, 2013). Until Honduras can regain political solidarity and restore trust in the eyes of the people, primary human rights abuses in the country, such as widespread violence, gang activity, police brutality, and human trafficking, will continue to worsen.
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