Violent Intimidation and Alleged Fraud Mar Elections in Honduras
Honduran soldiers guard buildings in the aftermath of the 2009 political crisis and coup.
Photo Credit: Yamil Gonzalez/Flickr
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Fraud is the word on everyone’s lips today as Hondurans reel from the preliminary election results that were announced late Sunday.
Despite massive popular support for the Party of Liberty and Refoundation (LIBRE), as well as polls and unofficial results that predicted LIBRE would win the election, the Honduran Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) announced that the conservative National Party presidential candidate, Juan Orlando Hernández, is winning with 34.27 percent of votes to LIBRE’s 28.67 percent.
At this point, although only 54 percent of votes have been counted and the final results have not been declared, political analysts have essentially called the election in favor of Hernández. Hernández already gave a victory speech.
Interestingly, so did Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, presidential candidate for LIBRE and the wife of deposed president Manuel Zelaya. At about 9pm Castro revealed her own results, with numbers that were procured by LIBRE election observers, indicating that she had won the election by a margin of roughly 5 percent.
LIBRE has impressive grassroots support across the country. The party itself is a product of a large coalition born from post-coup era political organizing. The party’s promises of economic and political change, coupled with a push to reform the democratic structure in Honduras appeal to many, including some who previously were not political at all. It came as a great surprise to many when LIBRE fell behind in the official results.
LIBRE supporters may take the streets in protest of what they call blatantly fraudulent elections. It is unclear what legal process there is in Honduras to appeal the election results. LIBRE will now have to rely on its popular support and superior numbers to have any hope of overturning the official election results.
“The people are not, in any way, going to accept these results. It is evident that the people fell over to vote for Xiomara. The people want a change. They need a change,” said Susana, a passionate LIBRE party organizer who didn’t want to be identified by more than her first name for security reasons.
Specifics are still unknown about whether or not fraud occurred and how it happened.
Both the LIBRE party and several television stations including TV Globo reported their own numbers based on election observer's counts and exit polls. All of them had Castro leading by a significant margin. Their numbers match the polls that were conducted throughout 2013, in which Castro also held the lead.
The official numbers from TSE are very different and give the National Party a win over LIBRE by a large margin.
“What this tells us is that fraud has been very well organized—put together starting a long time ago,” said Susana. “The numbers that they are giving us directly from the electoral tables in the polls where the votes were given, they do not coincide at all with the percentages that the tribunal is releasing.”
There is much speculation about what happened. The initial electronic count should be announced November 25, after which the paper ballots will all be counted before the election of a candidate is officially announced.
Violence and Intimidation
While it is unclear how much blatant fraud occurred, if any, there have been many well-documented accounts of potentially fraudulent activities and intimidation across Honduras both on Election Day and in the week leading up to it.
In the department of Copán, on Election Day, approximately 50 election observers from the LIBRE party were trapped inside their hotel by dozens of paramilitary forces surrounding the building and preventing them from arriving on time at their stations at the polls.