28 November, 2013‘Possession is nine tenths of the law’ is an expression that nicely sums up the approach of the Honduran ruling elite in the elections on 24 November. It was this strategy that allowed the ruling party to thwart the aspirations of millions of Hondurans who participated in Sunday’s elections believing that for the first time they had a real choice of political parties to choose between.
As strategies go, it was fairly straightforward: First, bar alternative parties from the electoral tribunal so that you can impose the system that best suits your purposes. Second, organize an election with all the trappings of a reasonably democratic process. Third, within hours brazenly declare yourself the winner and manipulate the poll returns as needed to support your claim.
IndustriALL GLobal Union participated in a trade union observer mission, made up of regional representatives of three global unions, of IndustriAll’s Danish affiliate 3F and of unions from Guatemala, Nicaragua and Costa Rica. Through the observer mission, IndustriAll Global Union witnessed how preliminary results based on selective returns from only 20 per cent of polling stations were described as ‘decisive and unlikely to change’. This was the cue National Party candidate Juan Orlando Hernández needed to launch his victory, speech which was widely covered in the official media.
Worse was yet to come. By Monday evening, the electoral tribunal had posted on its obscure website images of the tally sheets from the largest voting center in the country’s industrial capital, where an IndustriAll representative had been present to witness the vote count. Oddly enough, officials also posted a chart listing the breakdown of the center’s 47 polling booths which contradicted the data from the tally sheets in surprising ways: the votes obtained by the Liberal Party were mistakenly attributed to a small party which had not obtained a single vote, while the National Party’s own results were reduced to only 0.17 per cent of votes cast. Clearly efficiency is not a pre-requisite here.
These are high-stakes elections for the traditional political parties and the business elites that support them. The ruling party is keen to hang on to the controversial laws it has pushed through since the 2009 coup, including the law on autonomous ‘charter cities’, which has been widely decried as ‘free-market colonialism’, as well as the ‘hourly employment law’ allowing employers to hire up to 40 per cent of their permanent workforce by the hour.
Unions in Honduras have been actively involved in the movement of popular resistance to the coup, out of which the Libre party was born. IndustriAll affiliates, the Federación de Trabajadores Mineros y Metalúrgicos de Honduras (FETRAMIMH) and the Federación Independiente de Trabajadores de Honduras (FITH) describe the current state of mind of their members as one of ‘controlled anger’ and are closely following the situation.