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Honduras: Recognizing the Ghost of Electoral Fraud

By: Gina Kawas - @GinaKawas - Nov 6, 2013, 11:23 am

EspañolParticular events scattered throughout Honduras’s electoral history set a clear prelude. They tell us that a massive electoral fraud may take place during the next general elections, on November 24.

If we go back to November, 2005, the presidential race was led by José Manuel Zelaya Rosales and Porfirio Lobo, from the Liberal and National parties, respectively. The Supreme Electoral Court declared Zelaya to be the victor, and these two major parties continued to be the only dominant options in Honduras.

Months later, Zelaya himself publicly confessed to having won the 2005 elections through fraud. In June, 2009, the military ousted him, giving rise to an internationally-known political crisis with a catastrophic aftermath. However, in November, 2009, new elections were held and won by the Partido Nacional candidate, Porfirio Lobo, albeit in a context of low voter turnout and lingering doubts.

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The lengthy record of allegations of fraud, as well as Honduras’s weak institutional system, means the specter of electoral fraud is more present than ever. Source: Telemundo

In November, 2012, political parties held their primary elections. In the case of the Partido Nacional, the race was between Juan Orlando Hernández and Ricardo Álvarez, who ultimately lost. Once the result became known, however, Álvarez claimed electoral fraud before the relevant authorities and through the necessary channels, with legitimate evidence he had obtained. He appealed to the Supreme Electoral Court, seeking legal actions and protection before the Constitutional Chamber of the Supreme Court of Justice.

While the appeal was being processed, Juan Orlando Hernández, his opponent, ousted, in flagrant violation of the National Constitution, four judges in the Constitutional Chamber. The replacement magistrates, named by Hernández, then dismissed the appeal. Currently and despite the aforementioned accusations, Álvarez has accepted to run for the National Party for the office of presidential designate, after a series of negotiations with Hernández.

Those of us who consider ourselves defenders of freedom and democracy, cannot show but concern at the statements some candidates have repeated time and again. For instance, we could opine that the Partido Nacional will rule for 50 years, or that a Constitutional National Assembly will be convened, whatever the results of the election, which clearly reveals these parties’ intention to remain in power eternally.

On top of this situation, we citizens have no access to any accountability whatsoever relative to the financing of campaigns. Given the lavish level of advertising spending of several parties, led by the Partido Nacional, it is vital that we have access to information on the origin of these apparently-unlimited funds.

In 20 days, we Hondurans will choose from eight different candidates, including the new LIBRE socialist party, founded by Zelaya and with his wife at the top of the ballot. Given the many previous cases of fraud and Honduras’s currently-weak institutional framework, the specter of electoral fraud has never been more real. Facing that prospect, all Hondurans and the international community should remain vigilant and watchful of the process as observers, opposing the manipulation of results with all possible defenses.

Citizens must prepare to cast their vote, studying the Electoral Law and participating as observers to achieve a clean process. Should any irregularity be found, we must know how to properly document it and file the relevant claims against any illegal act which could take place on this important date — before it’s too late. If we want to keep democracy from becoming a license for tyranny, the only way to fight authoritarianism is to leave indifference behind and take an active role in the coming elections.

Translated by Ceteris-Paribus.

Gina Kawas Gina Kawas

Gina Kawas is a Young Voices Advocate from Honduras and a graduate student of Latin American and Caribbean Studies at New York University. She has coauthored the book Freedom for the Entrepreneur, published by ANDI and the Friedrich Naumann Foundation. Follow @GinaKawas.