The general elections in Honduras appear to have high voter turnout and the criterion of presidential candidates and observers that the day took place in order and tranquility. The tranquility at the national level, with complaints about the late opening of some polling stations, has been highlighted, more than half of the day, by the three main candidates: Nasry Asfura, of the ruling National Party; Xiomara Castro, of Libertad y Refundación (Libre), and Yani Rosenthal, of the Liberal Party.
Honduras Set Up 5,755 Voting Stations for Sunday’s Elections
The electoral authorities and the main candidates called for calm in these elections of uncertain ending. At 5:00 PM the voting centers closed, and it is up to the members of the Voting Boards to extend the closing time. The first preliminary results should be announced around 8:00 PM.
“I wish to make the call so that [the process] can unfold in peace, tranquility, without fear and without violence", said the president of the National Electoral Council (CNE), Kelvin Aguirre, at the beginning of the election day.
More than five million citizens are called to vote until 5 PM. Results will be known about three hours later.
The opposition candidate of the leftist Libre party, Xiomara Castro, is favored, as is Nasry Asfura of the ruling National Party (PN, right), the current mayor of Tegucigalpa who has benefited from timely government handouts of bonuses to vulnerable families.
Fears of fraud, something the opposition already denounced in the previous 2017 elections, and the deaths of at least 31 people linked to the elections during this campaign fuel tensions.
Castro, 62, was the first to vote. "We want it to be a civic party, in peace, in tranquility," Castro said in the El Espino neighborhood of Catacamas, 170 km east of Tegucigalpa.
"They are going to try to provoke the people, we understand that there is desperation, especially from those who have been governing these 12 years, but the people must go out with confidence," she said.
Before casting his vote, the 63-year-old Asfura, known as "Papi a la Orden", pledged to respect the results.
“We must, as gentlemen, and as men, accept things, but until the last vote is counted,” he said. "Peace and tranquility has no price and listen to me well: not a drop of blood has a price," he declared at the National Pedagogical University of Tegucigalpa.
The first hours of the elections were developing normally. "Everything is very calm, (there is) quite a lot of control," said architect Carlos Aguilar, 44, who was standing in line to vote at the voting center in the Vida Abundante church, east of Tegucigalpa.
Citizen comments highlighted the large turnout, with lines of 200 meters in some precincts.
"If the PN wins the elections, even legitimately, there will be a worrying level of violence," analyst Raul Pineda, a lawyer and former legislator for that formation, told AFP.
In 2017, President Hernandez managed to get re-elected amid accusations of fraud by the opposition and international observers. That unleashed a wave of protests and state repression that left some thirty dead.
“A kind of paranoia has developed, people are preparing for war," and there are citizens who in recent days have stocked up on food and water for fear of not being able to go out to shop later, Pineda said.
All this in a country already hit by gang violence, drug trafficking and several hurricanes, where 59% of its 10 million inhabitants live in poverty.
“We are deployed to guarantee the Honduran people that there will be security and peace, so that they can go and exercise their rights," said the head of the Armed Forces, Tito Livio Moreno. There are 18,000 military personnel deployed in these elections.
The PN has been in power since former president Manuel Zelaya, Castro's husband, was overthrown in 2009 in a coup supported by the army, business elites and the right wing, due to its closeness to Chavism.
But a series of corruption and drug-trafficking scandals have peppered Hernandez. Tony, his brother, is serving a life sentence in a U.S. prison for drug trafficking. The drug traffickers the president helped extradite to the United States, and the prosecutors who prosecuted his brother, accused him of involvement in drug trafficking.
Asfura, meanwhile, was accused in 2020 of embezzling public funds, named in the Pandora Papers and linked to influence peddling in Costa Rica.
The third candidate in preferences of the 13 in the race, Yani Rosenthal (Liberal Party), spent three years in a U.S. prison for laundering drug money.
“Honduras is known internationally as a narco-state, but there are no narco-states, only narco-governments,” said Pineda.
For many voters, the main problem is the lack of jobs. Unemployment jumped from 5.7% in 2019 to 10.9% in 2020, largely due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Hondurans will also elect 128 deputies and 20 representatives to the Central American parliament.