Tuesday, February 8, 2011

New CESPAD Study

The Centro de Estudios para la Democracia (CESPAD), a group founded in 2009 to study Honduran democracy, has issued a paper that examines three possible scenarios for an end to the unresolved political crisis in Honduras. Gustavo Irias, director of CESPAD held a press conference yesterday. The report is the result of the work of Eugenio Sosa and Francisco Saravia and appears to be based in part on the results of the September 2010 public opinion survey that CESPAD carried out. We wrote about this poll in late November contrasting its results with the much earlier LAPOP poll from January which hit the press about the same time.

Since we've been critical of Proceso Digital, I want to give them credit for providing the only Honduran press coverage. This post is based on their summary of the report, which has not yet been posted anywhere.

The September poll found that only two to six percent of the population had confidence in any one of the organized political parties in Honduras. Only 14 percent of the survey respondents reported being satisfied with the state of Honduran democracy; a large majority, 86 percent, were unsatisfied. Finally, in September 2010 only 15 percent of those polled thought the political crisis of 2009 had been resolved.

As described by Proceso Digital, the report soundly condemns the Honduran political parties for their jingoistic focus on elections and a lack of any real plan for dealing with the economic and political crises facing the country. Politicians in power, both Liberal and Nationalist, live off international funding. This, of course, makes them extremely vulnerable to outside pressure.

Irias noted in the press conference that the country is experiencing a growing dissatisfaction with democracy and its institutions. Irias said,
"This is a kind of public challenge of electoral democracy, as well as holders of political power, so we dared to ask what the prospective scenarios might be going forward, without being wizards, how could the country go in 2011"

The first scenario assumes that Honduras fails to overcome the political crisis, fails to meet the conditions for OAS readmission, and fails to find conditions to allow Manuel Zelaya Rosales to return to the country. Under these conditions the international community will maintain pressure on the Honduran government, especially on the issue of human rights, which in turn, may tarnish or discredit the international image of the country.

CESPAD suggests that under these conditions, the Honduran political system will fail to stabilize or regain credibility with the public. The Nationalist party will not increase its electoral power. The Liberal party will remain divided, and the Frente will fail to reach a political consensus.

If the political forces disintegrate, this can lead to a governance crisis in which the next election would be marked by an atmosphere of dissatisfaction and probably result in a weak minority government reaching power.

CESPAD researchers concluded that the probability of something like this actually happening is high, that with the political recognition of the Lobo Sosa government and the recovery of international funds, the perception is that the hardest part of the solution to the crisis is over, when it is not. The underlying structural problems will persist in the scenario, and may worsen, leading to a new governance crisis.

CESPAD posited a second scenario that involves some minimal level of agreements towards a democratic transition from the current political and structural crisis. In this scenario agreement is reached for Zelaya's return and he becomes a force for either reuniting the Liberal party or focusing the political ambitions of the Frente possibly forming a larger front with the UD (Unificación Democatica) party. In this scenario the UCD would have to raise its profile to neutralize Zelaya's influence. The real question in this scenario is to what extent Zelaya and the Frente are able to move forward beyond discourse to political action which restores the political parties.

CESPAD believes that there's an even chance of arriving at this point, and they point to the short term international pressures around Zelaya's return and human rights as drivers towards arriving here.

In a third scenario, the crisis deepens and there is a further deterioration of democracy making the country even less governable. In this scenario, Zelaya becomes a point of contention both for supporters and detractors, and increases pressure on the government by mobilization for a constituent assembly. CESPAD says this puts the 2012 internal elections and the 2013 general election at risk and may bring Honduras back to be the center of OAS debate. CESPAD says it would test Lobo Sosa's management skills, and likely lead to increased human rights violations, which in turn might lead to a suspension of international aid. CESPAD sees this scenario as less likely, but still possible.

However, Director Irias concluded
"In practice, the actual dynamics of Honduran politics will yield results combined from all three scenarios, arising from factors that change the context and the political will to make changes. The scenarios we provide can serve as a basis for policy making by both civic organizations and those who wield power."


Anonymous said...

CESPAD obviously neglected the scenario under which the State Department has been operating:

1. Elections!
2. ????
3. Happy people!

RNS said...

The CESPAD study, entitled "Crisis Política en Honduras. Escenarios Posibles a Diciembre de 2011" can be downloaded here: