Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Liberal Party at 122

The Liberal party in Honduras just celebrated its 122 birthday, amid widely divergent views about the status of the party.

Founded February 5, 1891, the Liberal party grew from the Liberal league which had been formed in 1884.  Liberalism, based on ideas ideas espoused by Morazan, is described as a center-right political philosophy. 

The Honduran Liberal party is one of two founded in Central America that has persevered to the present, the other being the Colombian Liberal party.  The Honduran Liberal party itself is part of Liberal International, a federation of Liberal parties throughout the world, which promotes:
liberalism, individual freedom, human rights, the rule of law, tolerance, equality of opportunity, social justice, free trade and a market economy.
Since that definition starts with "liberalism" it is somewhat recursive, so lets unpack what liberalism is.  According to the 1947 liberal manifesto, liberalism believes
that liberty and individual responsibility are the foundations of civilized society; that the state is only the instrument of the citizens it serves; that any action of the state must respect the principles of democratic accountability; that constitutional liberty is based upon the principles of separation of powers; that justice requires that in all criminal prosecution the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, and to a fair verdict free from any political influence; that state control of the economy and private monopolies both threaten political liberty; that rights and duties go together, and that every citizen has a moral responsibility to others in society; and that a peaceful world can only be built upon respect for these principles and upon cooperation among democratic societies. We reaffirm that these principles are valid throughout the world.
The Liberal Party of Honduras seems to have lost its web presence, which used to be at, which now redirects to the Facebook page of Esteban Handal, a failed Liberal Party candidate in the primary elections for President this year.

A historic rift formed between the Catholic church and the Liberal party during the nineteenth century. During the rule of Francisco Morazan over the United States of Central America in the 1830s  Morazan, who advocated the true separation of church and state, made the state government stop enforcing the tithing of the population for the benefit of the church.

In recent times, Liberal parties have tended to split up fractioning into more social democrat factions, and more conservative ones.  Until the coup of 2009 the Honduran Liberal party had avoided this split, but as a result of the coup, about 55 percent of the Liberal party left to form Libre, the new political party headed by Manuel Zelaya Rosales.  That rift has left a small social democrat faction within the remainder of the Honduran Liberal party, along with a strong right wing faction, responsible for the coup, which controls it.

Liberal party members assert the party has come together since the exodus of 2009 and will win the 2013 elections. Analysts disagree. 

Yani Rosenthal, himself a presidential candidate in the party primary this year, told a reporter for Proceso Digital that he didn't see the party as factionalized, but that it must unify now that the primary elections are over around its presidential candidate, Mauricio Villeda, who represents the far right in the party.  Rosenthal said:
Everything will depend on the capacity of the leaders of the party to unify the distinct factions which participated in the internal [elections].  If the leaders are capable of uniting it, the party can be first and win the next general election.
So far, though, the party has not rallied in support of Villeda, who of course was intimately involved in the de facto regime installed in the coup of 2009.

Edmundo Orellana, who belongs with some of the remaining few social democrats inside the Liberal party, doesn't see the party leadership consolidating authority; just the opposite:
There is no acceptance of the leadership of the Central Party Executive because there has been an exodus of Liberals to the Libre party and those that are still within the Liberal party feel marginalized in the organization....There is a distancing between the Liberal party organization and the candidate of the party.
Julio Navarro, a political analyst and Liberal party member sees no way the party can win in the 2013 elections.  For Navarro, there's a crisis of credibility in the party itself.  He further indicated:
The party leadership that arose out of the primary elections has not been seen; the presidential candidate does not appear interested in uniting the factions which participated in the primary election.
Navarro suggested that
to win, they have to regain credibility and confess, because those who ran the party made a mistake in June 2009.  They need to say a "mea culpa" for liberalism and blame the errors on whose who led at that time; they must recover the ability to organize and construct messages that convince the electorate to accept their political proposal.
But Navarro doesn't hold out much hope of this happening.  He noted that their party presidential candidate, Mauricio Villeda has the same problem that Elvin Santos had in the last election, held while the de facto regime controlled the country:
They believe because they are the most conservative that is sufficient to win elections.  Villeda assumes that because he is the most conservative candidate, against the menace of Juan Orlando Hernandez and Libre, that he'll be elected....this belief that he'll be elected could lead him to defeat.
The first political poll of the year showed that the Liberal party candidate would come in fourth if the election were held now, behind Xiomara Castro of Libre, Juan Orlando Hernandez of the National party, and Salvador Nasralla of the Anti Corruption party. 

That tends to support Orellana and Navarro's analyses. 

Proceso Digital assures us that most experts agree that the Liberal Party would come in third, though they fail to cite any specific experts.

The Liberal party remains stuck in the factionalism that resulted in the coup of 2009 where the ultra conservative faction of the Liberal party took out their party's more centrist president. 

Mauricio Villeda has not made any overtures to other existing factions within the Liberal party to try and unify it post primary elections.  Instead he's left it up to the factions to come bargain with him for a power-sharing role in the party, as Yani Rosenthal did.

The faction controlling the Liberal party thinks they will win simply because they are running the most conservative candidate from a major political party. Meanwhile, the Honduran people seems to have moved on.

How many more years of continuity will this long-established party have, if it cannot accept the evidence of lost elections and lost support?


LuiShadow84 said...

The following may be useful when searching for lost references in the future:

You may find that is difficult to navigate the liberal party's website but you can read a lot if you [SELECT ALL] on each webpage.
I used Chrome and Firefox, the later worked better, hope this helps.

Asside the technical tips for bibliographical sources; I would like to add that, even though I disagree with some of your views (few but basic), in my opinion this an interesting and well written blog which provides useful information to people so everyone can reach their own conclusions.

RAJ said...

Thanks for the links that will help our readers; we also use many of these same resources. To clarify: we were informing our readers that if they simply went to the website, they would not find the older content. One of the challenges of a blog is that often, links are broken because the sources move or are revised. We have learned to print off any content we see so we can always document it-- being able to support our reporting is critical for us.

We suspect that is why even someone like yourself who disagrees with our views sometimes (we hope not all the time) can see that the blog is useful to everyone. We do not hide our perspective-- but is is informed by information and experience, hard won, of Honduras.