What I Saw at the Honduran Election
Despite threats of violence, bombs, and bullying by other countries, as well as being told by their former president that they would be stupid to vote and by world leaders that it would be a waste of time, the valiant Honduran people came through and showed the rest of the world that they value their democracy.
Just as Honduran President Roberto Micheletti had promised hundreds of times since June 28, voters were safe and secure, and the elections were fair and the most transparent in the history of Honduras. Micheletti often said, "No one, absolutely no one, will stop our elections." And no one did, but not for lack of trying.
I went to three polling places on Sunday in La Ceiba (the third largest city) and one in El Porvenir (a smaller town) in the department of Atlantida. The polling places were crowded, and hardly any police or military were in sight. I was surprised at the latter because I was worried they would be needed for security. However, the atmosphere was fiesta-like: happy people, kids playing, mothers carrying babies, many people lingering to talk to their neighbors. I also saw more traffic than usual on a Sunday, with many cars waving the flags of Honduras and/or the political parties. Some polling places had food stands set up outside, adding to the festival atmosphere.
I talked to two soldiers at two different polling places. They were polite and informative and very happy that everything had been calm and orderly. I was taking pictures like crazy -- no one minded, not even the soldiers. I was initially concerned about this as the resistance warned they would be taking photos of voters, implying that there would be retaliation later; I didn't want to worry anyone. The photos can be viewed at my blog, La Gringa's Blogicito. Judge for yourself whether the polls were empty or whether people seem intimidated.
The voter turnout has been estimated at 61%, clearly higher than Zelaya's 2005 election (55%) and almost exactly the rate of the 2008 U.S. presidential election (where voters have no fear of bombs and massacres). The number of null and blank ballots is also estimated at much less (around 5%) than in 2005 (8.6%). It is extremely likely that the total number of eligible voters is grossly overstated, but whether it is more overstated than prior years, I don't know.
The reason is that I don't believe there is any attempt to identify Hondurans who no longer live in the country, unless they officially change their address with the national registry. I really doubt that is done by most Hondurans in other countries, resulting in citizens being unable to vote in the U.S., where more than one million Honduran expatriates are estimated to be located.
While I was waiting for my husband to vote, I saw that six members of his family were on the list for that voting table. Two of them have been in the U.S. for nine and 26 years, respectively. Another one is in Europe and one passed away 11 years ago. So four of the six listed would not be voting, but not because they were protesting the elections. I've rarely met a family in Honduras who does not have at least one relative in the U.S.
Both in-country and international election observers gave outstanding reports and congratulated the Honduran people. Several said that Honduras should be an example for other countries. A Venezuelan observer said, "This demonstrates that the world was wrong. All countries need to rectify their attitude toward Honduras." When asked about the position of the Organization of American States (OAS) on Honduras, one observer said, "The OAS became a white elephant years ago. Now it has become a black elephant." National Review's blog The Corner includes an article by one election observer who wrote that the endless false reports of repression of Radio Globo "had nothing to do with the reality around me."