Tuesday, February 2, 2016

Supreme Court Elections on Hold

With another round of voting for Supreme Court justices seemingly at hand, lets examine what is preventing the election of a new Supreme Court in Honduras.

A successful candidate needs 86 or more votes.  The National Party has 48 members in Congress.  The Liberal Party has 27 members.  Libre has 31 members. PAC has 13, PINU has 1, the UD has 1, the Christian Democrats have 2, and there is 1 independent.

The first round of voting elected 7 justices:  5 Liberals, 2 National Party affiliates, and 1 independent.  No one got the required 86 votes in Rounds 2, or 3.

The National Party has adopted the position that the Supreme Court must be partitioned by political party, and because it is the current ruling party, it should have the majority of members.  They want 8 justices.  There is historical precedent.  That's how the election of Supreme Court justices has worked since 1982.  They insist that a particular suite of 8 candidates (6 National Party members, and 2 Liberals) be elected in the next round.

The Liberal Party is allied with the National Party over the election of Supreme Court justices.  They want 7 justices to be affiliated with their party.  They are settling for 6 justices under their agreement with the National Party.  They have also asked that the Chief Justice be a Liberal, just as he is right now.

PAC and Libre have both advocated for electing the best suite of justices.  They differ, however, on the qualifications of the current pool of 45 nominees.  PAC identified 16 candidates it felt were qualified to be Supreme Court justices from the pool.  Libre rejects all of the current pool of 37 remaining candidates.  Instead Libre seeks to turn the conversation to legislative reforms, referenda, and plebiscites.

Last weekend, the leaders of these four parties meet with President Juan Orlando Hernandez to try and negotiate a solution, but all of them stuck with their position, and they left the meetings without coming to an agreement. 

Yesterday evening the Honduran Congress yet again failed to elect any justices in a third round of voting.  Libre party members largely abstained from voting or filed null ballots.  PAC did likewise, though at least one member of this party voted for 3 candidates of the suite put forward as the solution by the National Party.  PAC accused that Congress person of betraying the party.  During the counting of the votes, several members became upset and apparently punched each other.

Today's Congressional session did not include a vote on the Supreme Court nominations.  Instead it dealt with the newly declared national emergency because of the Zika virus which has hundreds of Hondurans ill in the Hospitals. 

The issue remains on hold while negotiations continue.

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