In Honduras, the voters have spoken

Recently, 2.6 million Hondurans went to the polls to participate in their regularly scheduled elections, generating a remarkable 61.3 percent turnout and a 55 percent mandate to longtime opposition leader Pepe Lobo for president.

Over 500 international observers from 31 countries dispersed throughout the country, watching the process in 5,300 polling centers. Observers consistently reported that the independent Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE) conducted a professionally run election that was consistently free, fair, and transparent, beginning with last November’s primaries and ending with Sunday’s voting.

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We worried about sensational news reports of threats by radical leftists to violently intimidate voters, and clashes by the so-called “resistance” with police and the military. Fortunately, we witnessed no intimidation by any individual or group. In fact, voters were in good spirits and patient.

Like most Latin American countries, Honduran police and military are traditionally dispatched to each polling place to provide security. We witnessed their cordial and professional conduct in every location we visited. It’s interesting to note that during the 30 days prior to the election Honduras’s constitution places the military under the control of the TSE, which is governed by representatives of all five political parties.

Outsiders who were absent on Election Day have since attacked the legitimacy of Honduras’s elections and questioned the right of Hondurans to conduct their own regularly scheduled elections. After spending a lifetime participating in elective politics, I find it hard to believe that one can credibly claim successful elections harm democracy.

Partisans of the left demand the restoration of Mel Zelaya, the former president who was removed by an act of the Supreme Court later endorsed by an almost unanimous vote of the Honduran Congress in June. He was removed because of his attacks on constitutional institutions, the disappearance of hundreds of millions of dollars in taxpayer funds, and his efforts to extend his grip on power. Zelaya’s own vice president joined in this repudiation.

Zelaya, an acolyte of Venezuela’s Hugo Chavez, attempted to discredit the elections, demanding a boycott and then falsely claiming that voter turnout was lower than reported. In fact, 9 percent more voters participated in 2009 than in his election in 2005. He also has made conflicting claims that voters were either intimidated from participating or coerced into voting. One should note that each of the four losing presidential candidates described these same elections as free, fair, and transparent.

Honduran voters spoke loud and clear. Hondurans are committed to their country’s constitutional democracy and want to move forward. They deserve our support.

Former Rep. Weller (R-Ill.) served as an international observer in the Honduras election.

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