After one of the most violent electoral campaigns in the history of the Central American nation, this Tuesday the electoral silence began to rule in Honduras. About 5.2 million voters are called to the polls to elect a president, and other positions, amid fears that neither of the three main presidential candidates will accept the other’s victory.
Honduras prepares for its appointment with the polls on Sunday. This Tuesday the electoral silence began to rule throughout the country, and the more than 5 million Hondurans authorized to participate now have a period of five days to reflect on their vote, without propaganda or electoral rallies.
A space to choose the “best men and women to direct the destinies of the country,” commented Eduardo Fuentes, co-director of Political Affairs of the National Electoral Council (CNE).
Candidates and political parties are now prohibited from making political propaganda or holding rallies. The regulations are applied in all Honduran electoral processes and non-compliance is punishable by high economic sanctions.
Unemployment as the main challenge for the future president
In addition to electing the president of the country for the period 2022-2026, Hondurans will choose with their vote three presidential appointees (vice presidents), 128 deputies to the National Congress and 20 to the Central American Parliament, as well as 298 mayors.
But what issues will elected officials have to grapple with? Honduras, with 9.5 million inhabitants, has been experiencing an economic, political and social crisis since June 2009, after the coup against the then-ruler, Manuel Zelaya.
According to figures from the Honduran Council of Private Enterprise (Cohep), one million people in the formal sector are unemployed, while more than 1.5 million have income problems in the informal sector. “The main problem for the Honduran is the lack of employment, whoever becomes president must start on day one with measures that encourage employment,” said Cohep president Juan Carlos Sikaffy.
Three presidential candidates with a real chance of winning
To respond to these challenges, more than a dozen presidential candidates ran. But while the list of candidates includes 12 names, only three have a real chance of winning the race, according to October opinion polls.
The first is the left-wing opponent, Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, wife of the ousted president Manuel Zelaya. If she became the first woman to govern Honduras, the candidate of the Libre party assured that she will seek “a government of reconciliation, a government of forgiveness.” He promised to “rebuild” Honduras, through “democratic socialism.”
The second candidate with a good position in the polls is Nasry Asfura, current mayor of Tegucigalpa. If he wins, it would be the fourth consecutive term for the right-wing National Party. “Hondurans, I am different, because of my work, my effort, my way of doing things, of doing politics,” Asfura said at his last rally.
A third force resides in the businessman Yani Rosenthal of the Liberal Party, who served a three-year sentence in the United States for laundering money from drug trafficking.
Honduran brothers. This midnight the electoral silence begins. Starting today, voters must reflect on their vote. To those who have already decided for us, thank you. To the undecided: We are the only alternative that will bring social and economic stability to HN.
– Yani Rosenthal (@yanirosenthal) November 23, 2021
Among these three candidates, the hate campaigns have not stopped. Libre accuses the ruling party of corruption and drug trafficking, while the National Party designates its rival as “communist”.
31 homicides against political actors
This contentious campaign raised concerns about what might happen on Election Day. If the result is very close, observers fear that a political crisis similar to that of 2017 could unleash.
In fact, the current situation is worse than during that electoral process, when 12 homicides were registered against political actors. “There is a conflict, especially a context of political violence that is generating fear in the population,” warned the director of the Observatory of Violence of the National Autonomous University of Honduras, Migdonia Ayestas.
The expert added that in recent weeks there have been “many violent deaths of candidates for popularly elected positions that, unfortunately, no one is going to vote for them because they were deprived of their lives.” Among them is the mayor of Cantarranas, Francisco Gaitán, assassinated on November 13, who was seeking his fifth reelection. With his death, there are at least 31 crimes associated with political violence in the country.
The United States Calls for “Transparent” and “Peaceful” Elections
The Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights in Honduras (Oacnudh) has already expressed concern about violent deaths in the electoral context. The Observer Mission of the Organization of American States (OAS), for its part, demanded an efficient investigation from the local authorities against “these unacceptable acts.”
The President of the Republic himself, Juan Orlando Hernández, joined in criticizing the violence in the electoral context and predicted popular rejection of those who promote it.
Finally, the Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs of the United States, Brian A. Nichols, called on all parties to work together to ensure that the general elections that Honduras will hold on the 28th are transparent and peaceful.
He noted that political actors have “every responsibility to ask their supporters to remain calm and express themselves peacefully,” and urged all candidates and political parties to “commit to respect” the election results.
With EFE, AFP, Reuters and local media