Thursday, January 16, 2014

Congressional Maneuvers

On the same day on which the National Party Congressional delegation announced it will let Juan Orlando Hernandez choose its Congressional leadership, the Congressional delegations of the Anti-Corruption Party, LIBRE, and PINU signed an accord to work together on certain projects in Congress.

Wilmer Velasquez, a National Party Member elected to Congress in November, told the Honduran press that the National Party Congressional Delegation had met and decided to let Juan Orlando Hernandez select its candidates for Congressional leadership. 

This is supposed to be a sign of unity, though he admitted there were several names being floated for president of Congress.  Velasquez told the press that Hernandez was in the best position to choose who was best for Honduras. 

Any nominees will still have to gain a majority of the votes of all Congress members.

At the same time, the Congressional delegations of the Partido Anticorrupción  (PAC), Libertad y Refundacion (LIBRE), and Partido Innovación y Unidad (PINU) came to a meeting organized by PAC's presidential candidate, Salvador Nasralla, and agreed to work together to achieve certain goals.  The full pact can be read here.

Election law changes are one of these goals. The allied parties will seek to mandate electronic voting to disrupt the traditional forms of election fraud. 

Also among the agreed-upon goals:
  • a rollback of the tax package the current Congress just put into effect
  • try to regulate the salaries of government employees 
  • work to democratize the Congressional rules and reform the election law
  • an overhaul the anti-corruption law

This does not mean they will always be working as a bloc with a combined roster of 51 members of Congress, but that they will work together on the specific issues agreed upon.  

Notably missing from either announcement was the Liberal Party, which declined to participate in the PAC sponsored meeting. 

Yani Rosenthal, current head of the Liberal Party Congressional Delegation (until January 20) said the party was between a rock and a hard place.  He faulted internal party decisions for the Liberal Party not having a clear position on the new Congressional leadership, citing Mauricio Villeda's call ordering Liberal Party Congressional Delegates not to participate in Congressional leadership discussions. 

Villeda's order came after twelve party members had held conversations with Juan Orlando Hernandez on the topic.  Rosenthal said that there were problems for the party no matter what it does.  If they ally with the National Party in Congress, for many that would be a death knell for the party.  An alliance that includes LIBRE would mean joining with a party that damaged the Liberal Party.  Another possibility would be to not ally with any party, but according to Rosenthal that, like all the other possibilities, would mean rejecting some of the current party values in order to maintain viability as a political party. 

Separately, Manuel Zelaya Rosales announced he was stepping down as coordinator of LIBRE as part of the separation of the Frente Nacional de Resistencia and LIBRE.  He has occupied this office since July 2010.  Zelaya will remain part of the Frente, and is part of LIBRE's new Congressional Delegation.

All of these moves are crystallizing the new political landscape in Honduras, against a background of furious legislative action by the current, National-party dominated, lame-duck congress, intended to give Juan Orlando Hernández as much as possible before he faces a Congress that will not automatically do what he wants.

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