In Honduras, parties raised concerns about fraud before the pivotal vote
Tegucigalpa, Honduras – Warnings are rife from every side of possible irregularities ahead of Sunday’s presidential election in Honduras, raising fears of potential rifts and unrest if main rival Xiomara Castro does not win by a clear margin.
The charged political atmosphere reflects memories of the disputed 2017 election, which the ruling National Party won after vote counting was delayed and which the Organization of American States said was riddled with irregularities before calling for a new vote.
The opposition said the result was falsified, and both sides declared victory. More than twenty people were killed in the riots and repression that followed.
The current election cycle has already led to more political violence than four years ago, with more than 30 people killed so far, according to researchers at the National University of Honduras.
Salvador Nasrallah, summer 2017, is the current vice presidential candidate for the main opposition list led by self-proclaimed Social Democrat Castro. The NDP is accused of plotting to repeat what it said was voter suppression in 2017.
“I have no confidence in our electoral process,” he told Reuters.
Politicians on both sides say the NCP routinely uses its full control of government institutions and funds to reward supporters, punish opponents and influence elections.
This week, the same party issued a statement criticizing the electoral authority for already making mistakes including a lack of transparency that could lead to a “national crisis” with belated and dubious results.
“It creates a situation that carries great risks for the elections,” she said.
Sunday’s vote represents the latest charged political standoff in Central America, after Nicaraguan President Daniel Ortega scrambled for re-election this month after all major rivals were arrested.
In a sign of concerns in the last week before the election, the administration of US President Joe Biden took the unusual step of sending a high-level delegation to meet with key candidates, government officials and election organizers.
After the visit, a senior US State Department official said the delegation’s main goal was to encourage fair, free and peaceful elections, given what he described as a democratic backsliding in the region.
A day before the general election, women and children queue to receive food aid outside the public school, Cantaranas, Honduras, November 27, 2021.
If election leader Castro wins, she would put Honduras back in power for the first time since her husband, former President Manuel Zelaya, was ousted in a 2009 coup.
If ruling party candidate Nasri Asfoura wins, he will have overcome the unpopularity of outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who is battling accusations of corruption and ties to drug traffickers.
Hernandez denies any wrongdoing.
Look at the candidate’s phone
During an interview, Nasrallah showed Reuters a video clip on his phone that he said was captured by home security cameras a few days ago. Show someone drawing expletives on the wall of their house. In the video, the person can be seen removing an outer layer of clothing to reveal a T-shirt bearing the Castro’s Libre party logo underneath.
Nasrallah said the video is evidence that NDP rioters are masquerading as Lieber supporters, fearing they will foment violence or destroy property to undermine opposition voices.
“They are the ones causing the violence,” he said. The NDP did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
On Friday, a handful of businesses in the capital, Tegucigalpa, covered the entrances to glass shops with wood and sheet metal, a sign that some are taking the possibility of unrest seriously.
Rexie Moncada, Lieber’s representative on the electoral board, said the government and the National Party had caused “a lot of obstacles” in their efforts to organize a fair vote.
The Ministry of Finance was specifically accused of interfering with the council’s budget and causing delays in the delivery of polling station equipment, such as printers and fingerprint readers.
Attorney Moncada expressed concern that any post-election dispute could reach the courts, which are widely seen as loyal to the ruling party.
“This country does not have much faith in our justice system,” she said.