Saturday, December 7, 2013

Post-Election Analysis from Honduran Experts

Radio Progreso, a project of the Jesuit organization ERIC (the Equipo de Reflexión, Investigación, y Comunicación) located in El Progreso, Yoro, has a commentary on their website with insight from a number of Honduran commentators about where the post-election phase is headed. It starts:
Two weeks after the general elections, their results continue to be the object of critique for the suspicious way in which the count of votes in the local polling places developed and the filling out of the actas electorales (vote tallies).
Then it moves to a series of comments from Honduran perspectives. The most intriguing of these is the perspective of the new student movement, the so-called Camisas Negras or Movimiento anti JOH. This is the group whose protests in Tegucigalpa were met with immediate suppression by the military police in the days after the vote.

Radio Progreso quotes Marcos Rubí, a member of this movement, on its origins and aims:
"it grew in the heat of what pretended to be an electoral fiesta, with university students that from before the beginning of the process already had seen certain anomalies, certain signs of fraud, and then in the electoral process of Sunday the 24th, now that the fraud was confirmed, indignation grew and we decided to organize ourselves... The Movement is heterogeneous, there are ideologies involved that run from the right to the extreme left, but there is a consensus that there was fraud and we all have the same purpose".

The disillusionment of students with the electoral process has been under-reported in the international press. University students took the place formerly occupied by representatives of the church in this election, as custodians for the individual election polling places. That means they were witnesses to the most egregious irregularities: the selling of party credentials, voter intimidation and mis-information-- irregularities international observers dismissed as minor, but that these Honduran youths (in our view, rightly) saw as shocking and unacceptable.

Honduran sociologist Eugenio Sosa criticizes the Tribunal Supremo Electoral, and was blunt about the possible impact of challenges to the TSE:  "I believe that the results will stand, the Tribunal has announced them and it isn't going to reverse itself even though they will make a pretense of reviewing the actas":
"I believe that the Tribunal, despite having launched itself affirming that these were the most transparent elections and despite having all the backing of official organizations such as the OAS, EU, the US Embassy and Department of State, little by little has been showing aspects that demonstrate that in these elections there were as many problems, irregularities, and alteration of results as in the primaries."

Hermilo Soto, national coordinator in Honduras for the Lutheran World Federarion, characterizes reforming the electoral system as a "great challenge" for Honduras going forward, because "the great problem that we have today is that the people do not trust in the present institutionality directing the electoral process".

The article notes that Congress will play a key role in determining whether and how the electoral system might be revised, as well as having a key role to play in the subsequent elections of the Supreme Court and Ministerio Público.

As we have noted previously, no single party has a large enough delegation to congress to control these processes. Radio Progreso quotes the opinion of Antonio Rivera Callejas, a re-elected Partido Nacional congress member, about what may happen:
"It's too early to talk about the composition of the junta directiva (executive committee), that is going to be defined in January, I figure, you should remember that there will be many political factions making up the congress, there will not be a simple ajority for any of the political parties, this is going to require the consensus of many... What there is not yet are concrete names, of candidates for the presidency, vicepresidency, and secretariat [of the congress], so it is normal that there are conversations among all the political parties but that will take a concrete form only in the month of January".

Sociologist Armando Orellana is skeptical of the vision of harmonious consensus advanced by Rivera, and raises instead warnings of backroom deals and corruption as usual in the negotiation of a congressional majority:
"The party of the government [Partido Nacional] is buying consciences, there has been talk of payments of up to five million lempiras [about $240,000] to procrue the presidency of the Congreso Nacional. The ally that it has had during this period [the Lobo Sosa administration] has been the Partido Liberal, nevertheless they are not going to succeed in controlling the two-thirds majority necessary to manage constitutional reforms"

This is a critical point: many of the more alarming legislative initiatives under the Hernández Congress required constitutional amendments, which sailed through with unprecedented ease due to the alliance between the two dominant parties.

Radio Progreso cites Orellana's observation that LIBRE and PAC could, along with smaller parties (such as PINU and UD) form a large enough block that, with a few Partido Liberal congress members acting more independently they could push congress in a different direction.

While Antonio Rivera dismisses this, his argument for a more centralized authority in Congress-- which is that the hegemony and harmony under Juan Orlando Hernández was critical to the legislation that the current congress passed-- actually cuts both ways: for those who question the wisdom of such rapid, unreflective passage of major changes to the legal and economic framework of Honduras, slowing down the process may be the best outcome of this election.

And Radio Progreso's coverage suggests that the incoming Congress will operate not only with internal dissent, but with the scrutiny of a newly mobilized younger generation of Hondurans whose outrage about the way the election was conducted is unlikely to be settled simply because the international community declares that this election was good enough, if not really as good as it could have been.

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