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Honduras president makes controversial bid for second term

November 26, 2017 - HONDURAS

The Central American nation elects a president and 128-seat congress, and there is a chance the vote will send the country leftward because of controversies surrounding President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

His challengers for the presidency and for opposition congressional seats will argue that the government has failed to address endemic poverty, instability and crime.

Controversially, Hernandez, of the conservative National Party of Honduras (PNH), is running again despite a constitutional bar to second four-year terms. His main opponent among many challengers is expected to be Xiomara Castro, the wife of deposed president Manuel Zelaya. She is running on the leftist Liberty and Refoundation party ticket. Commonly referred to as Libre, the party was set up after the 2009 coup against the left-leaning government of then-President Zelaya.

Up to eight political parties will be competing for congressional seats. Libre appears poised to present a significant challenge to the PHP, which holds 49 seats to Libre's 31, unless Hernandez can convince Honduras that he has achieved his election promises of 2014.

He promised a zero tolerance approach towards organized crime and pledged to bring down the high levels of drug-related violence, but Honduras is often described as one of the most dangerous countries on Earth. Corruption scandals have set off huge protests. Journalists, lawyers and activists have been assassinated. A United States government travel advisory tells visitors to be careful: "With one of the highest murder rates in the world and criminals operating with a high degree of impunity, U.S. citizens are reminded to remain alert at all times when traveling in Honduras."

Latin American TV network Telesur reports that the country has been ruled by two dominant political parties, Hernandez' PNH and the Liberal Party of Honduras (PLP), but this time Libre could see its candidate in the presidential chair and with more clout in Congress. Castro came close to winning against Hernandez in their first match-up, taking 29 per cent of the vote to Hernandez' 34 per cent.

The network notes that Hernandez eked out the 2013 win amid widespread accusations of electoral fraud, systemic corruption and political violence.

Telesur reports that Honduras' Supreme Court unilaterally and controversially decided to allow Hernandez to run for a second term. His decision to run was widely condemned, according to the network, because one of the justifications given for the coup against Zelaya's administration was a report that the left-wing president might run for a second term.

Honduran President Seeks Re-Election After Saying it's Illegal (Telesur Nov 2016)

Honduran president claims victory in party primary (Reuters Mar 2017)

An Anti-Corruption Charade in Honduras (NYT Feb 2016)

Date written/update: 2017-06-23