Civic responsibility and peace in the Honduran elections
Portuguese José Inácio Faria, head of the European Parliament delegation at the general elections in Honduras, observes the counting of the votes at the Salesian San Miguel Institute in Tegucigalpa, on November 26, 2017. (Photo: Gustavo Amador/EFE)
Tegucigalpa, Nov 29 (efe-epa).- With "a sense of civic responsibility and peace, within a system that felt democratic". That's how the voting in the Honduras general elections was perceived by José Inácio Faria, the head of the European Parliament delegation taking part in the EU observer mission.
"The start of the elections was quiet and normal, the teams at the centers were prepared to find solutions," said Faria, a member of the European People's Party, while touring the Mixed Armed Forces School in the Modesto Rodas neighborhood in Tegucigalpa.
Faria and the other members of the delegation _ Lola Sánchez, a MEP from Spain’s Podemos party (far left), and the Socialist Party (PSOE) MEP Ramón Jauregui, together with Spanish Popular Party MEPs Carlos Iturgaiz and Verónica Lope _ moved through several polling stations to gather information on the Honduran electoral process.
They also visited, among other places, the Jesus Milla Selva Spain Institute and the Salesian San Miguel in Tegucigalpa, and another school in the municipality of Santa Lucia, about 10 kilometers (6.2 miles) from the capital.
Observing the vote "so that democracy prevails in the best conditions"
The MEPs received complaints of minor incidents, including ballot papers not bearing the stamp of "valid vote," "blank vote," "counted" or "is in accordance with its original."
They also saw long lines at the polling stations which in some cases delayed the voting considerably.
The Chief Observer for the general elections in Honduras 2017 Marisa Matias told EFE that data had been collected on the basis of proven facts and recommendations to ensure the process was democratic.
"We are neutral and do not take political positions, our work serves no particular interests but the general interest of the people so that democracy prevails in the best possible conditions," stressed Matias, an MEP from Portugal.
The EP delegation arrived in Honduras a few days before the November 26 elections and together they made up the 100 observers of the EU mission, which on November 28 made public a preliminary report at a press conference in which Matias regretted the interruption in the dissemination of results for several hours.
Excessive slowness in the dissemination of results
Matias, however, stressed that the processing of electoral data was being done under conditions of transparency and in the presence of representatives of political parties.
Before the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) issued its first preliminary report on the results of the presidential elections, candidates Juan Orlando Hernandez, current president and candidate from the National Party of Honduras, and Salvador Nasralla, leader of the Opposition Alliance Against Dictatorship, both proclaimed themselves as president.
In statements to EFE, MEP Sánchez said she had a "fairly positive evaluation of the election day" considering there was no violence reported.
"We believe that the people, the voters, citizenship in its vast majority knew how to freely express their democratic decision," she said.
However, she agreed with her other European colleagues that the excessive slowness in data management has tarnished the sense of civic responsibility demonstrated by the voters.
"We do not understand very well," she told EFE reporters, "why at this point (November 28) we have only had one report," when in the 2013 elections "there were more than five partial reports (by now)."
After confirming that the processing of the election data was done correctly, Sánchez said she hoped to know "as soon as possible" the results of the 10th general elections in Honduras since the country’s return to democracy in 1980.
The slowness in the publication of results "deepens," she warned, "the citizens’ distrust of Honduran public institutions."
Jauregui, back in Brussels, also expressed concern over for the lack of official results, given the "highly political" compostition of the TSE.
"There is no technical reason to explain this delay because the acts of the 18,000 ballot tables were transmitted electronically to the High Court already on Sunday afternoon (...) "All the democratic credibility of this process, even the Honduran democratic system now depends on the High Electoral Court. This is why we ask the Court to urgently make a public statement to announce the definitive results, according to the acts sent from the ballot tables, as checked by the political parties in Honduras,” Jauregui said in a statement.
Sánchez also considered it a serious problem that the TSE magistrates are "people who come from politics and not the world of the judiciary" and said they should be impartial officials elected by the National Congress, but "with proportional representation and real to all political forces."
She was also positively surprised that most of the members of the polling stations were female.
According to Sánchez, the female population of Honduras is more committed to the democratic process, although women "are not yet in the frontline of political participation and that is a step the country has to take."
In the presidential elections, there were nine candidates of which only one was a woman.
Hoping for "constructive recommendations" from EU observers
More than four million Hondurans (from around six million eligible to vote) have voted to elect the country's new president, whose name will be officially announced this week, according to the initial TSE forecasts.
They also voted to elect vice presidents and members of their national and Central American Parliaments, along with those of mayors' offices.
Honduran political parties thanked the electoral observation work carried out by the EU, including the ruling National Party legislator Antonio Rivera, for whom the presence of the MEPs was key to giving democratic validity and transparency to the elections.
"We hope that the European observers will make constructive recommendations in their report to improve the next elections," Rivera told EFE.
The EU mission will return to Honduras when it has the final observation report.
By Raquel Sánchez and Anny Castro
Translated by Sulagna Pal
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