Honduras – Disputed Presidential Election Result

It is no surprise that an election, which involved the left-leaning wife, Xiomara Castro, of a former president, Manuel Zelaya, ousted in a coup in 2009 by pro-military conservative factions, and a candidate, Juan Orlando Hernández, from the conservative, right-leaning oligarchic party, the Partido Nacional, which oversaw the removal of Zelaya, would result in acrimony between both sides.

As of the fourth count, with over 50 per cent of all votes counted, according to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal of Honduras, the winner of the election appears to be Juan Orlando Hernández, with 34.19 per cent of the vote, well ahead of Xiomara Castro, with 28.83 per cent. In third place is Mauricio Villeda, the candidate of the Partido Liberal, Zelaya’s former party, with 20.76 per cent of the vote.

However, Xiomara Castro’s newly formed party, the Partido Libertad y Refundación (Libre) after initially claiming victory, now appears to be contesting the result, amidst allegations of electoral fraud. Zelaya, the leader of Libre, has called on party supporters to ‘defend the election in the streets.’ International observers have stated the election was free and fair.

This election has a number of important implications for Honduras. Firstly, the victory of Hernández, the candidate with strong links to the pro-military right, who has promised to do anything to rid Honduras of violence, indicates that voters in this highly unequal and indigent society are still primarily concerned with crime. This is in line with a general trend across the region where valence issues such as crime have become more important to Latin American voters than economic redistribution.[1] In the Honduran case, this is not that surprising given the country is plagued by gang violence and has the highest homicide rate in the world, with a rate of 91.6 deaths per 100,000.

Secondly, it undermines the potential political comeback of Manual Zelaya. Removed from office in 2009 by a highly conservative legislature allied with the military, as a consequence of an increasingly populist turn, his wife’s election would have signaled a groundswell of support for the return of Zelaya.  Castro, running on a populist, left-leaning platform, promised to alter the current constitution. Given that the Honduran constitution prohibits Presidents from serving a second term, it was generally believed that one of the first constitutional reforms explored under Castro would have been the abolition of term limits to enable Zelaya run in the next election.

Thirdly, this election has significant ramifications for the Honduran party system. Honduras’ party system has traditionally been extraordinarily stable, dominated by two oligarchic parties, who established top-down vertical linkages with the electorate, largely rooted in clientelism.[2] However on Sunday, Honduras also elected all 128 seats for the country’s unicameral legislature. Although results are far from final, it seems likely that the newly formed Libre party will gain roughly a third of all seats. For the first time since the return to democracy in Honduras, a left-leaning party now sits in a far more plural house.

Ironically however, this means that the task facing Hernández as the new president, will be all the more difficult given this increased number of effective parties.

[1] For example, see Holland, Alisha. 2013. “Right on Crime?  Conservative Party Politics and Mano Dura Policies in El Salvador,” Latin American Research Review 48(1): 44-68.

[2] E.g., Roberts, Kenneth. 2002. “Party-Society Linkages and Democratic Representation in Latin America.” Canadian Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Studies, 27 (53); pp. 9-34.


2 thoughts on “Honduras – Disputed Presidential Election Result

  1. MSS

    I am really glad I discovered this blog.

    One quibble with this very informative post: it is the number, not (necessarily) the parties, that are “effective”!

    1. David Doyle Post author

      Thank you MSS. Of course you are absolutely right, this should read effective number of parties.


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