The Honduran Elections: Persistent Courage Trumps Attempted Tyranny
With better than 61 percent participation, the Nationalist candidate Porfirio Lobo won approximately 56 percent of the vote -- beating his principal rival, Elvin Santos, by approximately 200,000 votes. Santos conceded the election at 11:25 p.m. on Sunday in a very gracious speech.
The Honduran elections, planned long before the June 28 "coup" removing President Manuel Zelaya, went forward as scheduled. Pursuant to the Honduran constitution, control over the military had been turned over to the electoral tribunal on October 28. The military transported the ballots to the five thousand voting locations, many of which are in quite inaccessible areas:
To transport the material available 108 trucks, 225 light vehicles, two planes, four helicopters and 17 boats, all owned by the [military].
But to meet the goal light trucks will join the 840 other state institutions and 25 containers of 40 feet must be rented by the TSE [and] over 15 mules, also rented to drive the material to areas inaccessible by car.
There has been some carping about the "militarization" of the elections, but the use of military to help carry out the election is mandated not only by Article 272 of the Honduran constitution, but also by Article 4 of the October 30 accord.
By Friday, November 27, the resistance movement seemed to be fading into something approaching oblivion, although it called for the suspension of the elections pending the reinstatement of Zelaya. The sale of alcoholic beverages was prohibited from 6:00 a.m. on November 28 through 6:00 p.m. on November 30, as is common in much of Latin America. A laboratory for making bombs of the sort recently used against the Supreme Court building was seized by police on November 28. There were other minor incidents as well. Various artifacts establishing a link to the "resistance" were found. On election day, more than thirty weapons and explosives were found and confiscated. A candidate for local office, who had been a Zelaya supporter but decided to support the elections, received death threats from the "resistance" which characterized her as a traitor.
Zelaya stated on November 28 that he feels alone and isolated but "will defend this mandate, I am not willing to negotiate my position." The Honduran borders with El Salvador and Nicaragua were closed, apparently by mutual consent, "to avoid any problems or speculation." By the afternoon of November 28, there seemed to be a sense of resignation on the part of Zelaya and his supporters.
U.S. Ambassador Hugo Llorens visited several poling sites in Tegucigalpa, and "besides stressing normalcy and calm with which elections are being developed ... lauded the 'housekeeping' of the electoral process." By most accounts, the elections were peaceful, fair, and transparent. Even the head of the principal leftist party voted and urged others to do so, claiming (rather strangely) that not to vote would be supportive of the "coup." One minor problem did develop: The fingers of those who vote were to be marked with indelible ink, and in the afternoon supplies were running short in some places due to the heavy voting. The supplies were replenished promptly. "Five hours ... [after] the election started, thousands of Hondurans [were] still standing in line at polling stations in order to exercise their right to vote."
Many Hondurans in the United States voted in Miami, New York, and in other population centers. In New York, some two thousand were expected to vote. Many had to come from as far away as Boston.