Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya is urging his country’s National Congress to approve electoral reforms designed to prevent fraud ahead of November’s general election.
The leftist politician is warning lawmakers against possible electoral fraud committed by the ruling, right-wing National Party of Honduras, PNH, in the months leading up to the election. Zelaya, a leader of the democratic socialist Liberty and Refoundation, or LIBRE, party, is threatening to join other opposition parties in boycotting the elections if the government does not approve the reforms.
His proposed reforms would ensure that members of opposition parties have representation in the country’s electoral bodies, which are dominated by the PNH.
“If there are no free elections, there will be no elections in Honduras,” Zelaya told lawmakers on Friday, according to Diario Tiempo.
He added that opposition parties currently in a temporary alliance against the PNH will not recognize the elections “if the will of the people is not respected.” The alliance, lead by Zelaya’s LIBRE party, includes the Anti-Corruption Party and the Innovation and Unity Party.
Zelaya’s struggle against electoral fraud committed by Honduras’ ruling government dates back almost a decade.
In 2009, the former leftist president was illegally removed from power in a coup after attempting to run for re-election and change electoral policies that benefited powerful political parties like the PNH. Honduras then allowed only one-term presidencies.
Following a six-month provisional government, PNH leader Porfirio Lobo was “elected” into power — an election a majority of governments around the world did not recognize as legitimate.
In 2011, Zelaya co-founded the LIBRE party alongside his wife Xiomara Castro, in response to growing repression on grassroots movements in resistance to the coup. Two years later, Castro participated in the general election representing the LIBRE party, finishing as runner-up to incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez of the PNH. Although Hernandez allegedly won 34 percent of the vote compared to her 29, several legal experts have claimed the PNH committed acts of voter fraud during the 2013 election.
In 2016, the Supreme Court of Honduras approved Hernandez’s bid to seek re-election this year — a decision Zelaya has called “hypocritical,” given that he was ousted from power for attempting to seek a re-election bid.
“They made a fraud in the current president's election and did not say anything,” Zelaya also told lawmakers, Diario Tiempo reports.
In March, LIBRE will be holding its primary elections, where either Zelaya or his wife are expected to be elected to represent the party in the upcoming general election. Honduras’ National Congress is slated to vote on electoral reforms around the same time.