Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Update: Shaky Honduran election process adds to challenges for winner Juan Orlando

It appears Juan Orlando Hernandez has won the Honduran presidential election for his National Party. 
Libre is challenging the results and alleging fraud. There probably was some, but the reports from election observers suggest it wasn’t massive. (Probably not a good sign for a democracy when the takeaway headline is ‘No massive fraud,’ but still....)
Suspicions have rightly been aroused by the inept way the vote counting is proceeding. The polls closed Sunday at 5 p.m. Right now, noon Tuesday, a little more than two-thirds of the presidential ballots have been counted. Less than half the mayoral ballots in our town, Copan Ruinas, have been reported. And less than half the ballots for the congressional deputy election from our department have been counted and reported.
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 per cent of the presidential votes had been counted or reported.
Since then - another 36 hours - only an additional 14 per cent 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 per cent of the votes and Libre 29 per cent, 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 per cent, 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.

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