Sunday, December 17, 2017

OAS calls for new elections in Honduras

Today witnessed a series of press conferences in the contested Honduran election.

Shortly after the OAS Mission said it would be making a statement late today, the Tribunal Supremo Electoral announced its own announcement would be made earlier in the day.

Not surprisingly, given previous statements, the TSE's announcement was their conclusion that the presidential election had been won by Juan Orlando Hernández, of the Partido Nacional. Neither the Partido Liberal nor the Alianza formed by two opposition parties, the Partido Anti-corrupción and LIBRE, have accepted the vote tallies posted by the TSE, alleging a number of different kinds of fraud.

There is also a potential legal issue left unaddressed: whether the candidacy of Hernández was entirely legal. The current president ran for an unprecedented second term under a Honduran constitution that prohibited even talk of re-election, until a Supreme Court he shaped while head of Congress ruled otherwise. The Supreme Court ruling opened the door to re-election. But lawmakers in Honduras did not pass any legislation authorizing re-election. Technically, then, this is not just an unprecedented election outcome: it is one that took place outside any defined legal framework.

Both the European Union and the Organization of American States are on record as seeing the electoral process as problematic. While the EU released a statement today that many read as supporting the TSE's conclusion, the OAS today signaled more reservations, beginning with statements by Secretary General Luis Almagro on Twitter.

These were expanded in the OAS announcement this evening that the Secretary General of the OAS cannot provide certainty about the results of the election. The press release reiterates previous descriptions of the electoral process as "characterized by irregularities and deficiencies" and of "very low technical quality" and "lacking integrity".

The press release continues:
in the face of the impossibility of determining a winner, the only road possible for the winner to be the Honduran people is a new called to general elections, within the strictest respect for the rule of law, with  guarantees of a TSE that would enjoy the technical capacity and the confidence of the citizenry and the political parties.

This is followed by the appointment of a commission from the OAS of ex-presidents Jorge Quiroga and Alvaro Colom to "carry out the necessary work for a new electoral process and national democratic reconciliation in Honduras".

The full basis for this position is contained in the OAS mission's report to the Secretary General. It rehearses all the weaknesses in the electoral process. It calls allowing a run for re-election based on a court finding (without implementing legislation in place) a "bad practice...that revived the polarization generated by the coup and political crisis of 2009".

The OAS report also provides a new statistical analysis by Professor Irfan Nooruddin of Georgetown University addressing whether the sharp change in voting patterns noted after a break in counting could be explained in any innocent way.

This retraces some of the terrain covered by an analysis in The Economist that concluded that the shifts in voting seen were very unlikely.

Professor Nooruddin uses additional techniques, and concludes "on the basis of this analysis, I would reject the proposition that the National Party won the election

We will revisit these statistical analyses tomorrow, explaining what they do (and do not) show, and relate those observations to some of the known problems in the conduct of Honduran elections in general, and this one in particular.

For now, though, the question is: will Juan Orlando Hernández accept the OAS recommendation? Or does he think he can ignore the massive resistance to his re-election that has already led to almost two dozen deaths of protesters, and the closure of roads across the country?

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