Worse, there has been no explanation for the delays and lots of reasons to wonder what has been going on. By midnight Sunday, in the seven hours after the polls closed, 54 percent of the presidential votes had been counted or reported. Since then -- another 36 hours -- only an additional 14 percent have been counted. Results from a large number of ballot boxes from the two cites still haven’t been reported, so it’s not a question of remote communities. That’s bound to raise doubts about the process.
It was also odd, with National having 34 percent of the votes and Libre 29 percent, to have the election authorities declare Juan Orlando the winner with almost one-third of the votes uncounted. It’s likely Juan Orlando captured the largest share of the votes. But the shaky electoral process will make his job even more difficult. Honduras is broke. There isn’t enough money to pay salaries or bills for the rest of this year. The government can borrow, but interest rates on the international bond market would be eight to 10 percent, because of the risk.
The budget for next year has been prepared, then sealed in an envelope to avoid affecting the election campaign. (The proposed budget should have been a central issue in the election campaign, with all parties offering their plans. Instead it’s a secret, with weeks before the new budget year begins.) The National Party has been in power for the last four years and has been unwilling or unable to increase tax revenues, by reducing evasion, eliminating exemptions or increasing rates. Tax revenue has actually fallen as a share of GNP. It has likewise shown no ability to reduce waste or corruption or slow spending.
So unless Juan Orlando can take the government in a new direction, the problems will just increase. And his challenges will be grow if Congress is divided, as expected. (Again, it is bizarre that the composition of congress isn’t known almost two days after the polls closed.) And Juan Orlando will have to deliver on his promise to reduce crime and insecurity by using the military to police the streets.
It’s good news, four years after the coup, that the election process went ahead, flaws and all. But the same problems of Honduras are looming over Honduras today, with little evidence that effective action will be coming to deal with them. (11/26/13) (photo of Juan Orlando Hernández courtesy Internet)
Note: The author is a former journalist from Canada. He currently lives in the town of Copán Ruinas, Honduras, and volunteers with Cuso International, a Canadian development agency that matches skilled professionals to organizations in developing countries. He writes a blog called Paying Attention.