WASHINGTON – Given the lack of transparency and credible allegations of irregularities in tabulating results from Sunday’s elections, Honduran electoral authorities should commit to a full recount of all the votes in order to restore credibility to the electoral process, Center for Economic and Policy Research (CEPR) Co-Director Mark Weisbrot said.
Weisbrot noted that after the first 57 percent of the votes showed opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla winning by about 5 percentage points, the next 38 percent of the votes split 47 percent to 35 percent in favor of incumbent president Juan Orlando Hernández. The chances of this occurring, had the first 57 percent been drawn as a random sample of tally sheets, is next to impossible.
On Thursday night, the electoral authority (TSE) announced that the final 5.7 percent of the votes would be reviewed today before announcing the final results. With 94.3 percent of the vote counted, incumbent Juan Orlando Hernández is officially leading by 1.5 percentage points, or around 45,000 votes. Given the relatively few remaining votes, and Hernández’s margin, the election result appears to be determined. Nasralla would need approximately a 55 to 30 margin over Hernández among the remaining votes in order to win. Of course, if the remaining votes were to skew very heavily in Nasralla’s favor, this would provide additional evidence that the release of results was heavily manipulated
A preliminary analysis by CEPR indicates that after the initial release the voting trend changed not just overall ― which could be explained by geographical differences ― but within municipalities themselves. This sheds doubt on claims by the National Party and by the electoral authority (the president of which is a former National Party congressman) that the urban/rural divide explains the shift in voting patterns.
Opposition parties have alleged that the electoral authority began selectively inputting data into the public reporting system from areas where they knew Hernández did well. Given the difference in trends observed by CEPR and others, this appears to be a plausible explanation for the drastic change, and would indicate a politicization of the vote counting process that demands an independent investigation.
“Given the closeness of the official election results, the lack of a reasonable explanation for the delays, and the problematic vote counting process, it is imperative that the electoral authorities allow for a full recount before declaring official results,” Weisbrot said. “This recount should include a comparison between the tally sheets the electoral authority scanned into its system with the tally sheets in the possession of political parties, in order to ensure compliance.”
A leaked audio recording obtained by The Economist includes a woman working for the Honduran government describing a “Plan B” to secure a Hernández victory through what The Economist reported “appears to be a scheme for fraudulently boosting the vote of the National Party at the expense of its rivals.”
“This is another reason why it’s important that international actors and foreign governments wait until the election results have been thoroughly verified before making any statements about a victor,” said CEPR Research Associate Jake Johnston, who has been analyzing trends in the TSE’s official data.
Weisbrot also condemned government repression of protests over the electoral process: “The Honduran people’s right to free expression must be respected, including by the international community. And steps should be taken by the electoral authorities to minimize the political tension. Full transparency can help end the great uncertainty and distrust that has resulted from the mishandling of this electoral process.”
Early Monday morning, the TSE posted results based on 57 percent of the returns showing Nasralla with a nearly 5-percentage point advantage. Then no new information was posted for more than 30 hours. International observers, including from the European Union, have indicated that there was no rationale for this delay, as “tallies from all eighteen thousand polling places were transmitted electronically to the Electoral Tribunal on the day of the election.”
On Tuesday, one of the four magistrates of the Honduran electoral authority told Reuters that with 70 percent of the votes counted, the trend was irreversible, and Nasralla would be the winner. Later that day, Reuters cited anonymous European diplomats who alleged that the government and opposition were holding closed-doors meetings to negotiate the Hernández government’s exit from power, including immunity deals. Then, as the TSE posted new vote totals on its website, the trend changed drastically, quickly eroding and then erasing Nasralla’s lead altogether.