At Minimum, A Messy and Flawed Election

  • Written by  Wendy Griffin

Honduran election law allows the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) 30 days after the election to make known the official results. Honduran political parties that wish to contest the results of the election are required to do so within the 30 day period first at the level of TSE which both Libre and the PAC did, with widely covered press interviews regarding over 3,000 anomalies in the election table tally sheets, or “actas”, as well as other problems I've mentioned in some of my previous Honduras Weekly  articles. The TSE, in which Nationalist Party appointees hold the majority of the positions, ruled unfavorably for both parties, and then Libre took the case to the Supreme Court, which ruled within the 30-day limit that Libre’s case was not admissible. Note that the Supreme Court is made up justices who are either loyal to President-elect Juan Orlando Hernández or have been intimidated by him by moves he made to replace those who did not rule in favor of policies he pushed when he was president of the National Congress.

Adolfo Facussé, president of the conservative National Association of Industrial Companies (ANDI), said in a press interview with Proceso Digital  earlier this year that the Supreme Court does not work and that it is not worthwhile trying to take cases to it because most of the justices were hand chosen to be loyal to Mr. Hernández. This is similar to the sentiment  expressed by Salvador Nasralla of the PAC on why he did not spend money on lawyers and take the time to submit his complaints to the Court. The US State Department's travel warning issued on December 24 also notes  that the Honduran legal system is unable to function in a meaningful way to resolve legal problems foreigners may have in Honduras.

 

Both Libre and the PAC were interested in a physical recount of ballots, but according to the Ceibeño  newspaper interview with the new Nationalist Party mayor of La Ceiba, the new Honduran election law, which was recently approved by the National Congress while Mr. Hernández was its president, actually prohibits the physical recounting of votes, and so this is one of the ways they were able to legally block any hope of resolving the over 3,000 problems which were noted primarily in the actas. Legal recourses out of the way, the TSE published officially in La Gaceta  (the official government newspaper of legal record) the results of all levels of the election.

 

In an interesting decision, the TSE chose to publish on its official website the entire scanned “declaratoria”, or announcement of who won the election together with some of the important elements of the law deciding who won these positions, exactly as it appeared in the paper copy of La Gaceta. It has been known to happen that a law, as it was approved in Congress, ends up being published in La Gaceta with modifications to the original version. In such cases, the La Gaceta  version becomes the official version, not original one passed by Congress. So actually scanning the paper copy instead of just giving a report would be a step toward transparency.

 

Both Libre and the PAC submitted formal complaints called “impuganciones” with TSE about its declaratoria. The TSE has until early January to respond these complaints. There are seven additional impuganciones  with the TSE -- which essentially means that the people who filed them believe the government is lying.

 

Both in the TSE's declaratorias  about who won at the presidential and at the congressional and mayoral levels, the TSE magistrates wrote before they gave the list of the winners, “The Honduran election system is ruled by principals of legitimacy, electoral freedom, impartiality, equality, transparency and honesty in the electoral process.” However, there is a huge segment of Honduras' population, particularly among supporters of Libre and the PAC, that believes that the results of the recent election illegitimate. A survey was taken at the National Autonomous University of Honduras (UNAH) to see if students thought there was election fraud, and 92 percent responded yes. This is significant, as between 6,000 and 7,000 UNAH students served as “custodios” (guardians) of the election boxes and observers during the election process. (12/31/13) (photo courtesy Internet)

 

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Note: Wendy Griffin is the co-author of the book "Los Garifunas de Honduras" (1995) and was previously a reporter for Honduras This Week about Honduran ethnic groups including the Garifunas and an anthropology professor for the UPN in La Ceiba. Since 1996, she has split her time between living in the US and volunteering and living in Trujillo... in or near the Garifuna neighborhoods there.

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