Honduran Democracy at Its Breaking Point

By Cecilia Godoy

Two weeks after incumbent president Juan Orlando Hernandez appeared to have lost a presidential election he was projected to win without any difficulties, Honduras finds itself amid a constitutional crisis. Honduras just recently had its presidential elections, with the two main candidates being incumbent President Juan Orland Hernandez and primary rival Salvador Nasralla. The day after the election, Nasralla was ahead by five points with 58 percent of the vote counted, a margin an electoral tribunal member described as unforeseen as well as irreversible.[1] Then, the tally was mysteriously stopped for more than a day. Soon after it resumed, Hernandez inexplicably pulled ahead with the slimmest of leads. Many judged this to be indicative of an unlawful manipulation of votes with many Hondurans now protesting this clear violation of democratic procedures. Protesters have been met with a violent crackdown, in many cases with US-trained forces, a curfew and a suspension of constitutional rights that has left at least fourteen people dead and hundreds detained Some of the restrictions have been lifted, but the country remains in critical political conditions.

The electoral process has come to a standstill, with no winner being announced. the opposition filing a legal challenge to the tabulation process. Many people living in Honduras are impoverished,  making this election critical for citizens to be able to move forward and have better opportunities for change. However, some opposition activists fear that Nasralla will be pressured into accepting a forced compromise that subverts the will of the people, or that Hernandez will try to wait out until December 26th, the date at which an official result must be made. By waiting until the 26th, Hernandez would be able to act without international attention and pressure and work to secure an even tighter grip on power.

Honduras is currently one of the most dangerous places to be an activist and to protest the strict policies of a human-rights-abusing illegitimate government. It is imperative that people make their voices heard and protest to gain international attention for their cause. An incredibly repressive regime however, makes it unlikely that conditions of social mobilization and change will arise. It begs the question: what are the options available to citizens to fight against the government and the people who are being paid and elected to represent and protect them? What conditions are needed for a state to be considered unfit to provide for its people and for higher forms of power and organizations to step in?

Currently, the parties remain at an impasse. The opposition alliance has demanded a total recount of votes with active supervision of the electoral process by international agents. International actors, such as the European Union and the Organization of American States, agree that the Honduran elections were manipulated. “The demand for a full and transparent recount is eminently reasonable considering the myriad irregularities that have tainted the election”[2] and the National Party's control of the state apparatus overseeing it. Hernandez and his party have agreed to a partial recounting of the votes, but refuse to allow international agents to supervise the integrity of the process.

It is essential that continued international attention is devoted to this issue to ensure that the best outcome is delivered, as well as to safeguard the lives of protestors on the streets demanding their democratic rights. In a country progressively making its way into human-rights abuse territory, it is up to the international arena to keep Honduran legislative and executive power at bay.