October 22, 2013 by Gina Kawas
Almost one month out from the general elections, Honduras is experiencing a hostile environment of constant murders, violence, extortion, and protests. On November 24, Honduran citizens will go to polling stations to elect authorities that will represent the population in the 2014-2018 term. These elections will be a definite milestone in the history of this country, given that for the first time in its democratic era, eight political parties are participating in the electoral process and threaten to dissolve the hegemonic bipartisanship of the two legacy parties, the Liberal Party and the National Party.
The impeachment of president Manuel Zelaya in 2009 for his attempts to alter the Honduran Constitution caused a political crisis. The presidential Liberal Party (Partido Liberal) then split, and almost half of its members joined a new party, called “LIBRE,” which stands for Liberty and Refoundation (Libertad y Refundación). This party is openly socialist, and the former president’s wife is their presidential candidate. The party’s manifesto talks about “refounding” the country, which basically means emulating Venezuela’s 21st Century Socialism, including changing the Constitution, promoting an omnipotent State, and probably limiting freedom of expression.
On the other side, in the legacy parties, there is the conservative National Party (Partido Nacional), whose presidential candidate is Juan Orlando Hernández. As president of the National Congress, he has shown strong features of authoritarianism by proposing and passing several laws that attempted to limit freedom of speech and threatening checks and balances by politicizing and centralizing institutions (specifically the Supreme Court and the attorney general). If he wins the presidential election, it could represent a potential threat against basic individual freedoms and an inclination towards a strong military.
The Liberal Party might be the party that would endanger basic individual rights the least and respect the rule of law. Furthermore, it might foster investments and a market economy, as well as draft strategies to tackle the gang violence on Honduras’s streets.
Above party considerations, though, the elections need to be transparent. A large number of national and international observers and international media coverage are, one hopes, going to increase its transparency. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal and all the institutions involved in the process need be able to prove that the result is legitimate and to ensure that it is accepted by the population and those political parties that do not win.
As a young Honduran, I demand sanity, prudence, and respect for freedom of choice — without fraud or violent protests from the political elites, or the threat of them. The consequences of an unstable electoral process may result in an even bigger polarization of society, worse than that of 2009, causing violent uprisings that could eventually lead to tragedies, from clampdowns and human rights’ violations to lethal protests.
By studying the candidates’ proposals, history has shown us that populism and extremism are not the way to growth and stability and have never led countries to development, nor has excessive and centralized power.
Thus, as a young analyst, I defend and believe in democracy, the rule of law, and economic freedoms. I consider this is the only way to create human freedom and prosperity. Let’s take this unique election as an opportunity to pave the way to making Honduras a peaceful country, where the rule of law prevails. This might be the beginning of a new political era — one that will eventually lead to progress, development, and much-desired foreign investments.