Elections in Honduras could topple the long-running National Party

Elections in Honduras could topple the long-running National Party

Tegucigalpa — Honduras will choose a successor to unpopular President Juan Orlando Hernandez on Sunday in an election that could topple his National Party after 12 years in power.

The candidate most likely to do so is Xiomara Castro of the left-wing Party for Freedom and Reestablishment. The former first lady makes her third bid for the presidency and is the only one of 13 opposition candidates who has a chance of overcoming Hernandez’s chosen successor, Nasri Asfora, the popular mayor of Tegucigalpa.

Such is the level of distrust among Hondurans in the electoral process that many fear riots in the streets no matter who wins.

After a protracted, offense-filled competition in 2017, protesters filled the streets and the government imposed a curfew. Three weeks later, Hernandez was declared the winner despite a call by the Organization of American States’ observation mission for a re-election. At least 23 people were killed.

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This time, companies do not venture along the main roads of the capital. Workers installed plywood panels on many of their windows on Saturday.

More than 5.1 million Hondurans are registered to vote at nearly 6,000 polling sites across the country. In addition to a new president, they would choose a new Congress, new representatives in the Central American Parliament, and a host of local ethnicities.

Experts say it will come down to whether those unhappy with the NDP’s rule will turn out in sufficient numbers to overcome the incumbent’s powerful electoral machinery. Hondurans report that they have received phone calls from the National Party in recent days offering a variety of payments or other government benefits and reminding them to vote. Offered some calls to arrange transportation to polling sites.

In a world hit by the COVID-19 pandemic, Honduras can count this as just one of the crises that have plagued it in recent years. Last year, the country also suffered the devastating effects of two major hurricanes. The unemployment rate was 10.9% last year as the economy contracted by 9%. Powerful street gangs continue to terrorize Hondurans, pushing, along with economic factors, tens of thousands of Hondurans to emigrate.

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Corruption is perpetrated with such impunity that Hondurans have turned their hopes on US federal prosecutors in New York. They won life imprisonment for Hernandez’s brother, Juan Antonio “Tony” Hernandez, for drug smuggling, and accused the president of fueling his political rise with drug proceeds, though they did not bring charges. Juan Orlando Hernandez has denied any wrongdoing.

So the ground will seem favorable to Castro, but there are doubts about how much real change it will bring. The military ousted her husband, Jose Manuel Zelaya, in a 2009 coup. US prosecutors have also linked him to bribes from drug traffickers, which he also denies.

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