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Amid Polarization, Honduras’s Ruling Partido Nacional Succeeds at Polls

By: Mabel Velástegui - Nov 25, 2013, 9:08 am

EspañolMinutes before the Honduran Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE) was set to announce the preliminary results of the presidential election, Xiomara Castro — wife of ex-president, Manuel Zelaya — declared herself the winner with a press conference. “Going by exit polling and events of the day, I can tell you that I am the president of Honduras,” said the LIBRE candidate. The confusion that followed, however, only hastened a TSE response.

An hour before scheduled and in a national address, the TSE president, David Matamoros, revealed the first results. They gave the victory, with 35 percent of the votes, to the candidate of the governing Partido Nacional, Juan Orlando Hernández. With 24 percent of the votes counted, the LIBRE party had earned 28 percent, Mauricio Villeda of Partido Liberal had 21 percent, and Salvador Nasralla of Partido Anticorrupción had 16 percent. The remaining candidates all received less than 1 percent of the votes.

The latest results appear below and are available here.

Honduras's Ruling Partido Nacional Succeeds at Polls

Immediately, Hernández released a photo via Twitter of him on his knees, giving thanks to God. On stage, after the preliminary results, he affirmed his new role: “As they say with the polls, I will be the next president of Honduras!”

For his part, Villeda, while demonstrating optimism in the afternoon, was cautious in the evening.

“I have the satisfaction of a clean campaign, without insults, without abuse . . . At this time we have to support our candidates as deputies,” he declared to the press.

The Partido Liberal candidate accepted the results of the TSE and called his rival to congratulate him. He also affirmed the need to scrutinize the votes for the mayors and deputies, as they still came in.

Nasralla, on the other hand, did not recognize the TSE results. He claimed that 5,500 of the 7,000 polling centers counted were false, and he will proceed with filing complaints and calling for investigations.

Ex-president Manuel Zelaya had the same reaction, whose overthrow in 2009 generated a constitutional crisis in the nation. Ruccu Moncada, former employee with Zelaya’s government told the press that preliminary results were “clear fraud,” given “observed, analyzed irregularities and a large amount of data that does not match the results received by our party.” LIBRE decided to disregard the results and call on staunch allies to defend the triumph of Castro, as they planned actions for Monday.

However, the elections appear to have proceeded in a relatively peaceful manner, without major obstacles. As of this writing, the TSE has processed 6,966 polling centers, which means 45 percent of the total, and the preference for Hernández has remained.

Hernández, a 45-year-old lawyer by trade, was president of the Congress in his nation from 2010 until June of this year, when he had to leave his post to devote his time to campaigning — and he is one the men closest to the current president, Porfirio Lobo Sosa. His campaign, which climaxed in the last few months, came into direct confrontation his political rival Xiomara Castro. The strategy of both appeared to be an appeal to fear of the opponent, as a motivator to get out the vote.

One of the main themes of his rhetoric was insecurity in the nation. He proposed a greater role for the military, to guard the streets, given a less-than-pristine image of the police. “It is an urgent need of the Honduran state that the armed forces be at the forefront of this battle against crime,” Hernández declared on one occasion. Castro, meanwhile, was against such militarization and favored a communal police model.

Victor Meza, a political analyst with BBC World, said that the rhetoric of Hernández “had more of a cold war flavor than that of the twenty-first century.” In his view, the high level of ideological combat within the campaigns made Juan Orlando come across as contrary to the politician people knew — more aggressive, defiant, and more conservative. With that came support from religious leaders, in a nation where 90 percent of the population are believers.

The elections then turned out to be the most complicated in the history of the Central American nation, with the participation of nine political parties — including eight presidential candidates. Four of these formed in the wake of Zelaya’s ousting, but they may lose their registration if they fall below a 2 percent threshold of support.

Hondurans also went to the polls to choose three vice presidents, 298 mayors, 128 deputies to Congress, and 20 representatives to the Central American Parliament. The fragile process drew 250 international observers from the European Union, the United States, and the Organization of American States.

The new president, who will take office on January 27, among many challenges, will have to combat crime, drug cartels, and severe poverty — 71 percent of the 8.5 million residents. To pass legislation, however, he will have to build a coalition in the National Congress, because the presence of many parties means he will not have a majority.

Translated by Fergus Hodgson.

Mabel Velástegui Mabel Velástegui

Reporter for the PanAm Post, based in Guayaquil, Ecuador. Follow her on Twitter @mabelvelastegui.