The New Political Landscape in Honduras

Friday, November 29, 2013

On Friday, La Prensa connected the dots on the new Congress, quoting statements from Xiomara Castro that suggest LIBRE party leadership is (while pursuing complaints of irregularities and inconsistencies in the official vote count) moving on to the next stage: functioning as a major opposition party in a new, multi-party political landscape.

Castro… pointed out that LIBRE has converted itself into an “important political force” by the number of congress-members that it gained in the unicameral Congress, made up of 128 members.

“We broke the chains of two-party rule, today we are located in the first place, today we have demonstrated that the people fought and will fight for the platform of LIBRE”.

As previously noted, the Partido Nacional is projected to have 47 congress members; Libre will have 39; the Partido Liberal will have 26; and Salvador Nasralla’s Partido Anticorrupción is expected to have 13 congress members, with the final three falling, one each, to the long-established smaller parties: PINU, the Christian Democrats, and the Partido de Unificación Democrática.
La Prensa adds a contrast with the existing congress that is worth quoting:

In the present Congress, presided over and absolutely controlled by Hernández, the Partido Nacional has 71 diputados, the Partido Liberal 55, and the other three minority parties shared 12 seats, which had given total control to the conservative binomial that has governed this country for more than a century.

La Prensa is clearly anticipating less total control over the incoming government. That leads us to consider possibilities. LIBRE/PN coalitions seem unlikely (although some press reports earlier this week contained speculation about such an alliance).

We note with interest the opinion of Raúl Pineda Alvarado:

“The ideal is if there exists an agreement with all the political parties, but in any case the natural alliance that the nacionalistas could make is with the Partido Liberal”.

Pineda Alvarado is an ex-congress member for the Partido Nacional. So his comments give us insight into the pragmatic approach we might expect from within his party. His views are echoed by a re-elected Partido Nacional congress member, Antonio Rivera Callejas, who says that the PN could make alliances with the more “democratic” part of the Partido Liberal.

Rivera alludes to the marked division between the present day Liberal congess members, some of whom have stayed in line with the presidential candidate, Mauricio Villeda, and the other that has had more affinity with LIBRE. In the case of the first 26 virtually elected congress members, many of them re-elected, all belong to the first group, that is to say, they are “villedistas”.

Thus, we can expect an attempt to form a coalition of the two traditional parties on one side, with a possible 73 votes giving it a majority in Congress. Partido Nacional commentators add the three single representatives of the small parties, projecting 76 votes.

But that presumes that the entire Liberal party delegation does not see advantage in using its seats more flexibly, to advance its own political projects.

Earlier today, La Prensa suggested that the Partido Anti-Corrupción will form an alliance with LIBRE, in opposition to the two major parties. Despite ideological differences, both parties were mainly motivated by rejection of the existing power structure, which both characterized as fundamentally corrupt. Quoting PAC member (and projected congress member) Virgilio Padilla, La Prensa wrote

We believe that the opposition has to plan a block that can oppose the officialism of the government, and that can only be an alliance constructed with the Partido Liberal, Libre and PAC… We are disposed to establish an alliance that will defend Honduras, an alliance that represents the interests of Honduras, an alliance that will impede intervention in the Judicial Branch, because if the Partido Nacional is going to control all the powers of State, impunity is going to continue.
Salvador Nasralla, the presidential candidate, is said not to have ruled out any alliance, but La Prensa concludes alliance with the Partido Nacional is unlikely.

A three-way alliance would give LIBRE-PAC-Partido Liberal control of congress with 78 votes.

LIBRE and PAC alone would not be able to form a majority, with 52 votes. But they could make it much less simple for the Partido Nacional to pass its legislative agenda, even if they did not have formal support from the Partido Liberal.
Which more or less means that the husk of the Liberal Party, presided over by Mauricio Villeda, may have more power as a losing party than Villeda would have had if elected president with a minority of the national vote.

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