National Party candidate Nasry “Tito” Asfura, the mayor of Tegucigalpa, is leading in the polls ahead of the Honduran presidential election in November, with 21 percent support, according to a CID-Gallup poll released Sept. 10. Former First Lady and Libre candidate Xiomara Castro, as well as television presenter Salvador Nasralla, were both three points behind Asfura in the poll. How is the race shaping up? What issues will be the most important to voters in November, and how significant will allegations of corruption and fraud against candidates and their close allies be? What is at stake for Honduras, given who wins the election?
Luis Fernando Suazo, Honduras’ ambassador to the United States: “Polls, including CID-Gallup, favor Nasry ‘Tito’ Asfura of the National Party in what looks like a three-way winner possibility among 15 candidates. In the end, the support must be translated to votes, so turnout and the excitement of voters going to the polls will be decisive. In our country, the party structure is also important because many voters need help getting to the polls. In terms of voter turnout and excitement, the three front-runners may have similar conditions, but the National Party appears to have a better and more well-organized structure. For example, Salvador Nasralla of the Savior Party of Honduras registered no local candidates in nearly 25 percent of the country’s municipalities. The 90-day open campaign season recently began, and messaging has played a big role in how the race is shaping up. For example, former First Lady Xiomara Castro presented a plan that included the legalization of abortion. With 80 percent or more of the population being Christian or Catholic, this may affect her support. As in every election, we are looking at a war of narratives and accusations to generate political advantage. Previous allegations of corruption and similar accusations against candidates are already considered in the polls and may not have further impact. The fact that the opposition has a majority in the electoral authority should avoid allegations of electoral fraud by the official sector. Geopolitics and regional security are at stake. A change in the Honduran political system would generate an imbalance in SICA votes and in international political and economic organizations. Those who are undecided to this day remain the ones that could define the outcome, and anything could happen.”
Emily Mendrala, deputy assistant secretary for Western Hemisphere affairs at the U.S. Department of State: “The United States and Honduras enjoy a long history of collaboration and are closely connected by culture, geography, family ties and trade. The U.S. government is dedicated to supporting essential democratic institutions in Honduras and across Central America. The Honduran people deserve to have confidence that the results reflect their will. We call for calm and patience during the electoral process. We are partnering with the people of Honduras to offer support for free, fair, transparent and peaceful elections on Nov. 28. The freedom to elect political leaders is one of a set of core democratic institutions that are essential to keeping government leaders accountable. The United States and our democratic neighbors are concerned by recent attacks on democratic institutions among Honduras’ neighbors, particularly in Nicaragua, where the Ortega-Murillo government has completely closed off the possibility of free and fair elections through an alarming wave of repression, but also in neighboring El Salvador where a weakening of checks and balances between democratic institutions has produced judicial decisions that undermine electoral integrity. Given this context, it is more important than ever that the Honduran people engage in a peaceful and transparent electoral process, and we congratulate them on their progress toward this goal. These elections offer a critical opportunity to demonstrate the resilience and strength of Honduras’ democracy, setting a simple but important example to the region. As President Biden has repeatedly stated, the U.S. government is committed to assisting the people of Central America, including Honduras, to address the root causes of migration. Central to this effort is our focus on driving improvements in transparency, rule of law and an end to corruption. The United States remains committed to supporting Honduras in promoting inclusive economic growth, addressing shared migration challenges, combating corruption, promoting human rights, fighting transnational crime, mitigating the impact of the climate crisis and helping to protect vulnerable populations.”
Juan Carlos Sikaffy, president of the Honduran Council of Private Enterprise (COHEP): “This November will be an important month for all Hondurans. The people will choose a new president, members of Congress and mayors to govern us for four years. Honduras has suffered from the pandemic and two hurricanes during 2020, which caused an economic contraction of more than nine percentage points. This year has signified a lot of work to recover the lost jobs and reconstruct the infrastructure and agricultural areas that were devastated. Next year promises to be one with a lot of good opportunities to recover our economy, but we need peace and the best conditions to achieve it. With that in mind, we are convinced that the election process must be transparent, peaceful and that the popular will must be respected. It is important for the international community and national organizations to closely observe the election in order to give the population the security of a credible and legitimate process. Honduras deserves a bright future with opportunities for its youth, which will be acquired through hard work, as well as new and better jobs. We will work hard for this alongside any candidate that the majority of our population elects. All of the candidates running for public office must do so thinking of our country and sharing their governing plans with the population to prove they are the best option. Violence, insults and accusations are not the way to go, and our people must reject that. The private sector is ready to work for Honduras, and we hope the winners of our November elections are ready too.”
Hugo Llorens, former U.S. ambassador to Honduras: “The upcoming Honduran elections will be among the most consequential since the nation’s return to democracy in 1982. President Hernández’s constitutionally suspect re-election in 2017 and second term have undermined the public’s faith in democracy’s capacity to respond to citizen needs. The latest polls reflect public frustration in the face of an economic crisis compounded by the devastating effects of hurricanes and Covid-19. The Honduran people are seeking a leader who puts the nation above narrow personal interest. They want a president committed to more honest government, prudent policies to kickstart the economy and create jobs, fight crime and reform the health and education sectors. While the polls are tight, and the Nationalists can count on ample financing, a strong organization and loyal followers, a fourth consecutive triumph by the incumbent party would be unusual. The undecided third of the electorate, mostly disaffected youth, is likely to swing massively in the direction of one of the leading four candidates and be the decisive factor. Recent electoral reforms, including new technology, can contribute to a more transparent result, as will a robust national and international observer presence at polling stations and at the National Elections Council headquarters. Assuming the elections are free and fair, no candidate is likely to receive a resounding verdict. Let’s hope the winner wisely agrees to share power by creating a unity government with broad representation from all sectors. A genuine commitment to find practical solutions to core problems, not ideology, is key to getting Honduras back on a virtuous path.”
Enrique Rodríguez Burchard, managing partner at Aguilar Castillo Love: “Even though the most popular sentiment is ‘fuera JOH,’ referring to President Hernández, the opposition is demonstrating—just as it did in the last two elections—its inability to join forces and form a single bloc that could easily win, leaving the ruling party with ample possibilities of victory. Charismatic Mayor Asfura, who connects easily with the people through his simple speech, is leading the ruling party this election. He is a conciliatory figure who avoids insulting opponents and has demonstrated his managerial skills through the transformation of the capital city. The absence of structural electoral reforms has left the country without a second round of voting; therefore, the winning candidate will be elected with a small percentage of the votes, and with the enormous challenge of taking office without the support of the majority of the population. Economic problems are voters’ main concern, as they attribute other social ills such as migration, lack of education, poor health and violence to the economy. The new president must focus on addressing these problems immediately, in addition to starting the immense task of rebuilding the institutional framework in the country, deteriorated by an undemocratic concentration of power. Honduras is a peaceful country, with a tolerant population that has a tender heart that never loses hope. The simple change of government will be a respite for its inhabitants. For this reason, the international community must ensure that the results of the elections are respected, and that Hondurans once again believe in democracy and in their ability to forge their own destiny without abandoning national borders.”