Honduras - 2005 Election
Honduras is a constitutional democracy with a population of approximately seven million. In November national elections, considered by international and domestic observers to be generally free and fair, voters elected as president Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales of the Liberal Party. While civilian authorities generally maintained effective control of the security forces, there were instances in which elements of the security forces, particularly the police, acted independently of government authority. Government corruption, impunity for violators of the law, and gang violence exacerbated serious human rights problems in a number of areas.
A small number of powerful business magnates with intersecting commercial, political, and family ties owned most of the country's news media. The government influenced media coverage of its activities through the granting or denial of access to government officials. In May all three branches of the government and several private organizations continued the practice of granting awards, some accompanied by substantial sums of cash, to individual reporters, editors, cameramen, photographers, and editorial cartoonists on Journalists' Day. NGOs that monitor press freedom viewed these awards as an acknowledgment by the granting institutions of perceived services rendered. The government had considerable influence on the print media through granting or withholding official advertisements funded with public funds.
The news media continued to suffer from internal corruption, politicization, and outside influences. Ministers and other high-ranking government officials obtained press silence through hiring journalists as public affairs assistants at high salaries and paid journalists to investigate or suppress news stories. When the news media attempted to report in depth on national politicians or official corruption, media members were sometimes denied access to government information.
Parliamentary elections were held in parallel with presidential elections on 27 November 2005. In the last elections held in 2000, the ruling National Party (PN) won 61 out of 128 seats in parliament, followed by the main opposition Liberal Party (PL) with 55 seats. The remainder went to three small parties: five to the Party of Democratic Unification (PUD), four to the National Innovation and Unity Party-Social Democratic Party (PINU-SD), and three to the Christian Democratic Party of Honduras (PDCH).
In the 2005 elections, the media focused on the presidential elections. The two leading presidential candidates were the incumbent Speaker of the Congress, Mr. Porfirio Lobo Sosa, representing the PN, and a former minister of investment, Mr. Manuel Zelaya, of the PL. Mr. Lobo Sosa pledged to wipe out violent crime by introducing the death penalty for grievous crimes such as sexual assault, kidnapping and murder in order to make Honduras a crime-free country. His main rival, Mr. Zelaya, vowed to eliminate widespread government corruption under a "citizens' empowerment" plan. He also promised to pass a transparency law and establish a civil assembly to monitor the government. Both leading candidates pledged to fight poverty, unemployment, poor housing and malnutrition. Honduras has poverty and unemployment rates of 71 and 46 per cent respectively.
About 46 per cent of the four million registered voters turned out at the polls, which were monitored by a total of 114 election observers from 14 countries of the Organization of American States along with 6,000 local observers. More than 16,000 soldiers and police officers were deployed. The OAS declared that delays, some complaints of irregularities, and general difficulties "did not alter the process as a whole."
In November 2005 national elections, which were described by international observers as generally free and fair, Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales of the Liberal Party received a plurality of votes and became president–elect. Mr. Zelaya of the PL won the presidential elections with 49.9 per cent of the vote compared with Mr. Lobo's 46.2 per cent. The PL also became the largest party in parliament with 62 seats, while the PN won 55. The UD obtained five, the PDCH, four, and two seats went to the PINU. Observers noted irregularities at approximately 1,100 ballot boxes but no systemic patterns of fraud. Several Protestant ministers ran and won in the February primary elections, but the Supreme Electoral Tribunal declared their candidacies invalid for technical reasons prior to the general November elections, and they were replaced on the ballots.
Opportunities for women to participate in politics remained limited, particularly for those seeking elected office. During the year 32 women were elected as members in the 128-seat National Congress, which was the largest number of women ever elected to the legislature. There were 9 female justices, 1 of whom was president, on the 17-member Supreme Court of Justice. There were few minorities or indigenous people in leadership positions in government or politics. For the first time in the country's history, there were 3 Garifuna (Hondurans of African descent) congresspersons in the 128-seat legislature, but there were no members from other ethnic minority or indigenous communities.
The executive and legislative branches were subject to corruption and political influence. During the year the government implemented an anticorruption policy based on institutional reforms and prosecution of public and private sector officials accused of corruption. There remained, however, a widespread perception among the public and international observers that the government's anticorruption institutions were unwilling or lacked the professional capacity to investigate, arrest, and prosecute those involved in high-level corruption.
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