After Disputed Vote, Honduran Court Rules For Incumbent President

Dec 18, 2017
Originally published on December 18, 2017 8:11 am
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DAVID GREENE, HOST:

In Honduras, they have now declared a winner in the presidential election but not clear if this is going to end the political upheaval or potentially cause more. After a month of uncertainty and deadly protests over allegations of widespread election fraud, the current President Juan Orlando Hernandez has been declared president elect. But his opponent, Salvador Nasralla, has refused to concede. And now the Organization of American States is speaking out against the results. NPR's Carrie Kahn has been following the story. She's in Mexico City. Good morning, Carrie.

CARRIE KAHN, BYLINE: Good morning, and sorry for the scratchy throat. It's my Honduran souvenir.

GREENE: (Laughter) Well, that souvenir, we've had that souvenir elsewhere in the world as well. It's that time of year. So there's an outcome now officially. Are Hondurans going to accept this or where does this story go now?

KAHN: Well, it's difficult to say what's happening now. The OAS gave a long list, a stunning list, of reasons why they felt that the election was poorly executed. They gave it a poor grade. And then as you said, the secretary general of the OAS said it's impossible to say with any certainty who won and that a do-over is necessary. That's just a stunning - what's happening right now.

GREENE: And the OAS, we should say, is a very credible body. I mean, they're sort of like the U.N. of that region, right? So this is no small thing that they're disputing results.

KAHN: No. They're the premier regional forum for analysis and policymaking for the entire Western Hemisphere, which includes all of Latin America. So this is a big development.

GREENE: And what exactly are they saying about this election and how it took place?

KAHN: Well, they gave a lengthy list of irregularities last night. It was very technical, so I won't go into it. But the most stunning irregularities that really stood out to me were they said there was deliberate human intrusions into the computer system that counted the vote. They've said there was intentional elimination of digital traces in the system. And they even pointed to open ballot boxes. And then they asked a Georgetown University professor to analyze the results, and he concluded that there was an extreme statistical improbability that late election returns could have swung so heavily toward the incumbent, who was declared the winner.

GREENE: So are they being really careful with this language, basically stepping as close as they can to accusing the president of rigging the election but not quite going that far, just using all these technicalities to raise a lot of doubts here?

KAHN: Definitely but they were very clear in giving this electoral process what they called a poor grade and not giving the Honduran people the democracy that they deserve. So they've spoken strongly about it, but they're backing it up with very technical language.

GREENE: Can this body, the OAS, do anything meaningful to change this though?

KAHN: Well, it's unclear what's going to happen now. The current president needs to hand over the powers in the middle of next month. So that's very short term to hold a new election. And Salvador Nasralla has long said, and he told us in an interview in Honduras just last week, that he would not allow for an election to be done over with the current electoral body governing that election. He wants international observers to hold that election. So that would take a lot of time and preparation to pull that off.

GREENE: How much fear is there of instability and potentially more protests and violence in that country?

KAHN: Well, overnight, roads were blocked and there were street protests held again. Nasralla, who's on his way to Washington to meet with the OAS and U.S. officials, he's not even in Honduras, he had a stopover in Miami and he went on Facebook from the airport decrying the decision and urging people to stand up and to continue fighting. And then his ally, the former president, Manuel Zelaya, read a statement urging people to the streets.

And he also made the stunning declaration where he urged the armed forces and the police to only take orders from Salvador Nasralla and not the current president and not to repress the people.

GREENE: Wow, OK, we'll have to see where this goes in Honduras. And NPR's Carrie Kahn in Mexico City, we hope you feel better, Carrie. Thanks.

KAHN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.