November 30, 2009
Porfirio Lobo will be Honduras’s next President. Consistent with recent polls, Lobo, the National Party candidate, won a resounding victory over Liberal Party candidate Elvin Santos. The results were unambiguous, and Santos quickly conceded victory while Lobo and the National Party celebrated their victory. This sharply contrasts with the 2005 elections, when doubts remained about the results for over a week and speculation about vote-rigging abounded. In 2009, conversely, the question is not who won, but how many people voted. The turnout question will now become the centerpiece of the debate on the election.
After rampant speculation regarding possible Election Day protests and violence, Sunday’s elections took place under relative tranquility. The military and police were out in full force on Sunday to protect the elections, and security concerns were high enough to warrant canceling flights from the United States. There was some reported repression of protesters in San Pedro Sula, raids on pro-Zelaya groups’ offices, and temporary jamming of pro-Zelaya media. Generally, however, Honduras was quiet, and those that opposed the elections stayed at home instead of risking arrest by protesting. By mid-afternoon, the capital was a ghost town, with political propaganda everywhere but virtually no one on the streets and few cars on the road.
Soon after the polls closed, the presidential results were clear. Porfirio Lobo won well over 50 percent of the vote, while Elvin Santos received less than 40 percent. This result was predictable. Though significantly more Hondurans self-identify as Liberals, the June coup and ensuing political crisis have deeply fractured the Liberal Party. Many Liberals who identified with the deposed president, Manuel Zelaya, vowed to stay away from the polls. As one Liberal Party poll worker in Tegucigalpa, Miriam DeVicente, explained on Sunday afternoon, once the polls were virtually empty, “I think that from the Liberal Party many people have stayed away.” Meanwhile, other voters punished the Liberal Party for the political crisis that took place on its watch.