A Few Election Eligibility Issues in Honduras Could Outweigh the Truth and Authenticity of Its Vote

Over the past few months, Hondurans have waited for a peaceful transfer of power after the ouster of the nation’s democratically elected president and the years of dictatorship that preceded it. For a people torn apart by decades of authoritarian rule, elections were seen as a means for a new beginning. And for them, they found it: a ballot that included a daughter of a dictator on the ballot for president.

Even after Honduras’ Supreme Court stripped President Ousted President Manuel Zelaya of his right to run for office, he is still involved in the race, provoking the fear that his baggage will somehow hinder his candidacy.

Even so, the political environment in Honduras in the days leading up to April 5’s election could not be more volatile. An ascendant Liberal Party, to which Zelaya is a member, is attempting to force a runoff election between Zelaya and the Liberal’s favorite, Liberty and Refoundation Party (LIBRE) candidate, Salvador Nasralla. Nasralla, a former television personality, is running a populist, anti-establishment campaign that is focused on economic policy and security and seems destined to shake up a country that has previously been saddled with one authoritarian leader after another. In January, he launched the “Liberty Me Series,” an online mini-documentary series in which he calls for a Honduran revolution.

But Zelaya, who despite his being convicted of the crime of treason in 2008, has continued to act as his party’s candidate. The problem? Zelaya’s party has little grassroots support. In the 2008 election, which he won without opposition, it received an insignificant 9.5 percent of the vote. It is unclear how many votes it can expect this time around. And given that Libertad has never performed well in presidential elections, or contested them, it remains to be seen whether the party can even make the runoff.

Voters are looking for more than just a revolution in their presidential elections. They are expecting a government that is capable of reforming the desperate state of the economy and the anarchy that has followed over the past decade. Many Hondurans do not support the LIBRE candidate, and they have no confidence in Nasralla. A recent poll showed him at just 10 percent support. But his supporters include young, angry, and disillusioned citizens who might not yet turn out to vote on April 5.

In addition to MAS, several other parties have been running members of Zelaya’s family in the presidential race. Some of them, however, are also suspicious that they might be co-opted. On his Facebook page, Nasralla has called for a boycott of voting, a tactic used by many past political leaders in the region. But if his message is to be believed, he will announce late in the campaign, days before the elections, that he is pulling out of the race, giving MAS a chance to lead a new progressive coalition.

Elections are not a cure-all, but they can be a step toward moving toward that inevitable goal. After nearly a century of repression, voters in Honduras are hoping to find a government that will, finally, hold them accountable for their hard-earned money and give them their votes back.

Follow Stewart Powell on Twitter: @StewartPowellFOX

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