Weary of presidential election limbo, Hondurans demand transparency

In nearly every presidential election since Honduras’s 1980 democratic transition, the new leader was announced just hours after polls closed.

This year, five days have passed without a victor. Analysts predict it could stretch into a week.

The political limbo and building mistrust for what’s happening behind the scenes as votes are counted has put Honduras’s democratic integrity under fire.

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But accusations of the ruling National Party trying to consolidate power by attempting the country’s first reelection and claims of meddling with the vote count are countered by a small but significant bright spot: The Honduran population is standing up and sending a message that democracy, and their role in it, won’t be undermined.

“The future of Honduras is in our hands,” says one university student milling outside the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) Thursday, while protesters nearby built roadblocks with burning tires and faced off with riot police armed with tear gas. The young woman declined to give her name out of fear she might face political persecution for speaking out. “We don’t trust the Supreme Electoral Tribunal,” she says. “We are in a system of ingovernability…. [But] we are going to defend our institutions.” 

REELECTION AS A FLASHPOINT

In the lead-up to the Nov. 26 vote, the reelection of President Juan Orlando Hernández seemed like a given. National polls projected a double-digit lead over challenger Salvador Nasralla.

But, after nearly 10 hours of silence from the electoral commission, officials announced Monday that Mr. Nasralla of the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship had a 5-point lead with more than 50 percent of the votes counted.

“The polls said Juan Orlando was going to win, but citizens, everyday people, when you talked with them, you realized there was a strong current against” electing a president to a second consecutive term, says Eugenio Sosa, a sociologist who teaches at the National Autonomous University of Honduras.

He says he’s not surprised the polls and the media favored Mr. Hernández. “The state has complete control over big media organizations,” Mr. Sosa says. The international press watchdog Freedom House categorizes Honduran media as “not free.”

The question of presidents serving more than one term consecutively became a flashpoint in Honduras in 2009, when pajama-clad then-President Manuel Zelaya was…

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