HONDURAS POLITICS: Castro, Hernandez Headed for November Election
President Juan Orlando Hernandez and Xiomara Castro will face off for the second time in Honduras’ November election. Honduras’ presidential hopefuls Juan Orlando Hernandez, Xiomara Castro and Luis Zelaya have won their parties’ primary elections to become candidates ahead of the November general elections, electoral officials announced around midnight Sunday with nearly 40 percent of votes counted.
National Party candidate and current president, Juan Orlando Hernandez, won the nomination in a landslide victory over his sole contender. Xiomara Castro of the left-wing Libre party, also dominated her party’s primary, locking in a win with over 93 percent compared to less than 3.5 percent for each of her two Libre party contenders.
Meanwhile, Luis Zelaya won the nomination for the Liberal Party with a wide margin over the other four presidential hopefules vying for the candidacy.
Local media reported Sunday’s primaries were carried out smoothly. The Supreme Electoral Tribunal extended polls for one hour as a result of long waiting lines in many locations, but otherwise no major issues were reported. Electoral authorities began releasing results at 8:00 p.m. local time after exit polls signaled a win for Hernandez, Castro and Zelaya.
With Sunday’s ballot, the ruling National Party, the Liberal Party, and the left-wing Libre party also selected their candidates for three vice presidents to run alongside each presidential candidate, as well as 298 mayors and 128 members of Congress.
Looming over the primaries and the upcoming general elections is a heated debate over conservative President Hernandez’ bid for re-election. The issue has sparked controversy over the past year and laid bare right-wing hypocrisy in the country in the wake of the 2009 U.S.-backed military coup.
Despite the fact that the constitution limits the president’s time in office to a single four-year term, as the basis for Hernandez’ candidacy, the conservative-dominated Congress has cited a ruling by the Supreme Court that rammed through changes to allow for his re-election. Opponents slam the move as unconstitutional, arguing that only the Honduran people have the power to change the constitution through a referendum.
The main opposition candidate set to face off against Hernandez in November is the Libre party’s Xiomara Castro, who ran as Libre’s inaugural presidential candidate in the last election, and is married to former President Manuel Zelaya, who was overthrown in a U.S.-backed military coup in 2009.
When the polls closed, Castro’s Libre party celebrated surpassing its anticipated goal with more than 500,000 votes, the party said in a statement.
The race between projected frontrunners Hernandez and Castro will mark the second time the two candidates face off in a presidential race. Castro lost by a small margin to Hernandez in the 2013 election amid widespread accusations of electoral fraud. Her Libre party — the Spanish acronym for Freedom and Refoundation — was born out of the post-coup resistance and broke the country’s longstanding bipartisan consensus when it quickly gained popularity after being launched in 2011.
At least 150 international observers, including a delegation from the Organization of American States, were on hand to observe Sunday’s vote.