​Why we should care about Honduras poll

 06 Dec 2013 - 4:53



BY Mark Weisbrot
Election results are often contested, and that is one reason why governments sometimes invite official observer missions from inter-governmental bodies such as the Organisation of American States (OAS) or European Union. But there are times and places when these outside organisations don’t provide much in the way of independent observation.
On 24 November, Hondurans went to the polls to choose a new president, congress, and mayors. There were a lot of concerns about whether a free and fair election was possible in the climate of intimidation and violence that prevailed in the country. As I noted before the vote, members of both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate had, in the prior six months, written to US Secretary of State John Kerry, expressing their concerns.
Reports of fraud, vote-buying, the buying of polling-place party representatives by the National Party, and other irregularities came from observers during the day of the election and following. Of course, these things happen in many elections, especially in poor countries, so it is generally a judgment call for election monitors to determine if the election is “good enough” to warrant approval, or whether it should be rejected. But there are two very big things that stand out in this election that raise serious doubts about the legitimacy of the vote count.
First is the compilation of votes by the Libre party, released on Friday. The parties are able to do their own vote count after the election because their observers receive copies of the tally sheets, which they sign, at the polling centres. The Libre party was able to salvage 14,593 of the 16,135 tally sheets (some Libre observers were reportedly tricked or intimidated into turning their copies over to the electoral authorities). Hopefully the Libre party will post its tally sheets online so that these counts can be verified. If true, these discrepancies are so large that, by themselves, they would mandate the recount that the Libre party is demanding, if not a new election altogether.
The second big thing in this election has been the defection of a delegate from the official EU observer mission, Leo Gabriel of Austria. In a press interview with Brazil’s Opera Mundi.
The most important partisan interest is that of Washington, which put $11m into the election and wanted to legitimise the rule of its ally, the National Party, just as it did in the more blatantly illegitimate election four years ago following the US-backed military coup.
The OAS has similarly abandoned its duty of neutrality in elections in Haiti: it changed its 2000 report on presidential elections to support US efforts at “regime change”, and in 2011, took the unprecedented step of reversing an actual election result, without so much as even a recount — again in line with Washington’s electoral choices.
But the battle over this election is not over yet. Thousands of Hondurans have taken to the streets, despite increasing repression and militarisation of the country. The response of the international media and observer missions will be relevant: will they investigate to see if the charges of electoral fraud are true? Or will they simply watch as the National Party government consolidates itself with repression and support for the results from the US and its allies?
THE GUARDIAN


BY Mark Weisbrot
Election results are often contested, and that is one reason why governments sometimes invite official observer missions from inter-governmental bodies such as the Organisation of American States (OAS) or European Union. But there are times and places when these outside organisations don’t provide much in the way of independent observation.
On 24 November, Hondurans went to the polls to choose a new president, congress, and mayors. There were a lot of concerns about whether a free and fair election was possible in the climate of intimidation and violence that prevailed in the country. As I noted before the vote, members of both the US House of Representatives and the US Senate had, in the prior six months, written to US Secretary of State John Kerry, expressing their concerns.
Reports of fraud, vote-buying, the buying of polling-place party representatives by the National Party, and other irregularities came from observers during the day of the election and following. Of course, these things happen in many elections, especially in poor countries, so it is generally a judgment call for election monitors to determine if the election is “good enough” to warrant approval, or whether it should be rejected. But there are two very big things that stand out in this election that raise serious doubts about the legitimacy of the vote count.
First is the compilation of votes by the Libre party, released on Friday. The parties are able to do their own vote count after the election because their observers receive copies of the tally sheets, which they sign, at the polling centres. The Libre party was able to salvage 14,593 of the 16,135 tally sheets (some Libre observers were reportedly tricked or intimidated into turning their copies over to the electoral authorities). Hopefully the Libre party will post its tally sheets online so that these counts can be verified. If true, these discrepancies are so large that, by themselves, they would mandate the recount that the Libre party is demanding, if not a new election altogether.
The second big thing in this election has been the defection of a delegate from the official EU observer mission, Leo Gabriel of Austria. In a press interview with Brazil’s Opera Mundi.
The most important partisan interest is that of Washington, which put $11m into the election and wanted to legitimise the rule of its ally, the National Party, just as it did in the more blatantly illegitimate election four years ago following the US-backed military coup.
The OAS has similarly abandoned its duty of neutrality in elections in Haiti: it changed its 2000 report on presidential elections to support US efforts at “regime change”, and in 2011, took the unprecedented step of reversing an actual election result, without so much as even a recount — again in line with Washington’s electoral choices.
But the battle over this election is not over yet. Thousands of Hondurans have taken to the streets, despite increasing repression and militarisation of the country. The response of the international media and observer missions will be relevant: will they investigate to see if the charges of electoral fraud are true? Or will they simply watch as the National Party government consolidates itself with repression and support for the results from the US and its allies?
THE GUARDIAN