On Nov. 28, 4.8 million eligible Honduran citizens will elect a new president, 128 members of the National Congress and 20 members of the Central American Parliament. Every four years, the Central American nation is on the brink of chaos as officials and citizens alike disagree over election results and struggle to find a path forward. This year’s election is poised to bring more of the same, with reports of corruption during the primaries earlier this year and the arrest of one candidate for murder and drug trafficking a few days ago. Despite these setbacks, the election will go on as planned and a plurality of the electorate will choose a winner from three presidential candidates. Regardless of the election outcome, Hondurans can expect more of the same malaises that plague the country, or worse, a more authoritarian state.
The current mess in Honduras goes back to the 2009 coup d’état that ousted President Manuel Zelaya. In the aftermath of the coup, Honduras experienced a surge in poverty and violence, while the political system became entrenched in the right-wing National Party’s power-grabbing agenda. At the same time, the center-right Liberal Party experienced a rapid period of decline, eventually losing much of its constituency to the left-wing LIBRE Party. Additionally, the LIBRE Party saw significant gains in Congress and put forward President Zelaya’s wife Xiomara Castro as their presidential candidate. These changing circumstances yielded similar election results in 2009, 2013 and 2017, which delivered bitterly contested victories for the National Party followed by protests and corruption scandals.
This year, more of the same is expected. The LIBRE Party is rallying behind Xiomara Castro under a new alliance with former presidential candidate and television personality Salvador Nasralla. The National Party is counting on Mayor Nasry Asfura of the capital city as its presidential candidate since he is leading the race in some polls. Lastly, the Liberal Party tapped Yani Rosenthal, a member of one of Honduras’ wealthiest and most powerful families, as a presidential hopeful, but his prospects for victory are slim. In fact, the president of the Liberal Party publicly opposed Rosenthal’s campaign since he served time in prison in the U.S. for money laundering. Thus, the presidential election will be decided between Castro and Asfura.
It is important to note that there are differences between Castro and Asfura, even if polling numbers show them neck and neck. Castro is running on a platform of antipoverty and as a self-proclaimed “democratic socialist.” She has also taken a clear stance in international affairs by calling for diplomatic ties with China and a readjustment of Honduras’ foreign debt. On the other hand, Asfura is running largely on his success as mayor of the capital city and on his party’s 12-year power streak. However, very little change for Hondurans is expected regardless of the election outcome. The National Party has built a strong apparatus of government agencies and business over the past 12 years that will help Asfura if he is in power, but that same apparatus will challenge Castro’s agenda if she is in power. The real winners of the election are the architects of the militarized and constitutionally dubious state created under the National Party.
On Nov. 28, elections in Honduras will bring more of the same, or worse. If the National Party under Asfura wins a fourth term, it might continue consolidating power and head toward a more authoritarian form of government. Similarly, Castro is calling for a new constitution, and some are worried that her past alliance with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez points to a more statist form of government. In both scenarios, Honduras will face challenges to governability and democracy.