Monday, January 20, 2014

Denial, Anger, and Bargaining: The Liberal Party of Honduras and the Stages of Grief

The Kubler-Ross model of grief has five stages:  denial, anger, bargaining, depression, acceptance.  The Liberal Party in Honduras is somewhere between denial and anger after the November 24, 2013 elections. It seems poised to fragment more as it attempts to come to terms with its losses-- of party members, and of the offices of president and head of congress.

Let's start with denial. The Liberal Party wants to blame LIBRE (and to a lesser extent PAC) for all of the problems that beset Honduran society.  This despite the fact that the National Party has ruled Honduras for the last four years, and the Liberal Party ruled it for seven months after the coup of 2009, in which Liberal party members illegally removed from office the last Liberal Party president.

Which brings us to anger. The 2009 coup ripped apart the Liberal Party. A particularly conservative part of the party took control. The more liberal members of the party largely abandoned it and went on to form the Frente and LIBRE. As the election results from November 2013 show, about half of the supporting electorate left it as well. That has the remaining Liberal Party angry at others who it blames for its diminished position in Honduran politics.

If Kubler-Ross is right, the party needs to move on, and we can expect to see bargaining and depression before they finally reach acceptance.

Bargaining does seem to be the order of the day.

Since 2009 the Consejo Central Ejecutivo del Partido Liberal (CCEPL), which runs the party, has been in conservative hands, with Elvin Santos Lozano, and more recently Mauricio Villeda Bermudez, serving as President of the Executive council.

The Party leadership has not delivered a consistent message to its newly elected Congressional delegation about what it should be doing vis-a-vis the organization of the upcoming session of Congress.

Mauricio Villeda, the losing presidential candidate for the party, told congress members to wait and consult with the people, represented by the municipal mayors who were also elected in November. The municipal mayors have now spoken: they told the Congressional delegation to negotiate with the National Party for a Liberal president of Congress, in return for acting as allies (which would give back to the National Party the voting majority, but not the ability they have had to amend the constitution).

Today, another conservative member of the Party, Benjamin Bogran, who was its coordinator for the past election and is Secretary of the party, advised the party members in Congress to make no alliances, except with the people of Honduras.

Rumors have been flying suggesting that some Liberal Party Congressmen are following the mayor's wishes and talking with the National Party leadership about maybe having a Liberal Party president of Congress in exchange for an alliance between the two parties.

Other factions in the party, such as that represented by Yani Rosenthal, current head of its Congressional delegation, see that as death for the party.

However, the conservative faction that currently controls the Liberal Party blames LIBRE and PAC for all their problems, and sees this as a case of better the devil you know than the devil you don't know.  Bogran said that he could not support an alliance with LIBRE or PAC because "the two of them were conspiring to destroy the Liberal Party".

That's strong, and clearly angry language, but it is also misplaced anger. It is the current leadership of the Liberal Party with its swing to the right of the political spectrum that is responsible for its current loss of significance, but they cannot see it.  They're in denial.

As it struggles to stay significant, and remain a viable party that can attract voters, the best political strategy for the Liberal Party would probably be to not form any alliance, denying both the National Party, and the opposition block formed by LIBRE and PAC the required majority to pass legislation. That would allow the Liberal Party to effectively be the swing vote in policies from all sides.

Bogran seems to be suggesting that something like this actually is the leadership's position when he instructed the Congressional delegation to make no alliances except to do what is best for the Honduran people.  The party seems to be struggling to control its Congressional delegation, with Bogran's words an attempt to reign them back in and under party control.

Will it work?

It hasn't so far.  Almost half the Liberal Party delegation reportedly has had some kind of talks with Juan Orlando Hernández and the National Party directorate about leadership positions for Liberals in Congress.

Villeda seems to have lost control of the directorate of the Party. Vos El Soberano reports that Carlos Flores Facussé (ex-president, owner of La Tribuna)  has taken control of the party behind the scenes, comparing it to the coup Flores Facussé's father staged against Villeda Bermudez's father in 1963.  Reportedly, Flores Faccussé wants the party to be a viable platform from which to launch his daughter on a future presidential campaign. Villeda Bermudez has remained silent, and has been out of the country since before the New Year.

Congress meets to organize on Tuesday, January 21. The new Congress will be sworn in and elect a provisional directorate. That provisional directorate then will name the permanent directorship of Congress, those who will run the body for the next two years.  This must be done by Saturday, January 25.

It should be an interesting week.

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