Considering that on the 29th of November of the present year, the Honduran people, attending to the call of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, will come together massively to the electoral polls to express, by means of the universal, egalitarian, obligatory, direct, free, and secret vote, their desires and the firm hope of continued guarantee of the State of Law to assure the people the enjoyment of justice, liberty, culture, and economic and social welfare, as is ordered in effect by the maximum legal order of the country, which is the Constitution of the Republic.
This is the first stated assumption in a congressional resolution passed August 18. The ironies should be obvious, given the absolute lack of a guarantee of liberty, freedom, and the State of Law under the de facto regime.
Our question is, why did the congress pass any such resolution, and why now?
An article about this resolution in yesterday's La Tribuna supports the inference that the possibility of electoral activism, whether boycotts or other actions, is disturbing to the de facto regime.
The National Congress statement uses language from the codes of law and Constitution concerning the implementation of elections.
Hence the clause quoted above cites the constitutionally obligatory nature of the vote, which as we have previously noted, is honored more in theory than in practice.
The reporter for La Tribuna boils down the issues considered by the National Congress to four simple paragraphs, stripping away the overlay of lofty sentiments in the resolution. The article notes that it
condemns any action or denunciation, come what may, that would obstruct, disavow, impede, or tarnish the general election process that will be carried out in Honduras.
The first three words here come directly out of law; so the interesting interpolation here is "tarnish" (empañe). This is a choice by the writers for the pro-coup newspaper, revealing more than perhaps the congressional faction it supports would have desired.
Here, yet again, we have the de facto regime and its supporters ignoring the fundamental constitutional guarantees of freedom of opinion, in an attempt to shore up their support in the face of massive erosion of public trust, not just in their regime, but in the entire system of government. Some (unnamed) people are threatening to "tarnish" the electoral process. In fact, of course, the people who have tarnished the elections are the coup proponents and their supporters.
This is what the reform campaign is at base about. The disillusion on the part of the citizenry with the legitimacy and effectiveness of Honduran government was not created by the coup, or by President Zelaya. But he and his government were motivated to try to directly address it by enlisting citizens in governance. And that is what the coup regime cannot tolerate.
The other points made in the resolution that El Heraldo felt were newsworthy are equally revealing.
The congress felt it necessary to reiterate that the elections will be held, as scheduled, in November. Why is this even in question? Perhaps because the coup has shown that guarantees of constitutional processes are not to be trusted? perhaps because the national congress has considered seriously laws that would do such unthinkable things as reverse the hard-won freedom from universal military conscription, or would require news media to allow any politician who felt reporting was unfair to him or her to use the media to rebut the (not so free) press? Or, are we seeing a sign that people expect the regime to use continued unrest to suspend the elections, as has been the precedent in Honduran history?
The national congress explicitly expressed its total support for the Supreme Electoral Tribunal. Why? who is questioning it? could it be that people do not trust it as an independent guarantor of the outcome of scheduled elections? (It is worth noting that the 2005 Presidential election was marked by a major episode of premature announcement of electoral "results" by the TSE which undermined any idea of the apolitical posture it might take...)
Now, there are other aspects to the National Congress statement that did not make it into the commentary by La Tribuna. While numbered points 1 and 2 in the resolution simply restate that the election will happen as scheduled, and that the TSE is the entity charged to
supervise the transparency, legitimacy, and credibility of the electoral process.
But item 3 should give us pause; it reaffirms support for the Armed Forces
as guarantor institution of the rule of the Constitution, the principles of free suffrage, and the alternation in the exercise of the office of Presidency of the Republic.What is this actually trying to say? The Armed Forces have clearly experienced an erosion in public confidence due to their unwarranted actions in kidnapping the constitutionally elected President and expatriating him, actions absolutely contrary to the Constitution and without any authorization, even in the fatally flawed order dated June 26 signed by one justice of the Supreme Court. Throughout the days following, and increasingly since the coup leadership ordered that protesters be dislodged, the military has participated in violent repression leading to deaths and injuries, further eroding any image they had built up of kindly institution obedient to and serving the people.
The Armed Forces do have a constitutionally mandated role in elections: to guard the polling places to ensure no one interferes in access to them, and to ensure that polling results are not tampered with on their way to the TSE. But think about what the recent history of violent repression of the citizenry implies about this supposedly benevolent role. What participant in the resistance would find a polling place guarded by the Armed Forces welcoming?
More than that, though, part of this passage echoes a perversion by the de facto regime of the Constitutional role of the Armed Forces that is such a serious wound to the social contract that it has led to calls for Honduras to join Costa Rica in abolishing the Armed Forces entirely. This is the claim that the Armed Forces are "the guarantor institution" for constitution succession in the Presidency, and more generally, of the rule of the Constitution.
This is not the Constitutional role of the Armed Forces. The Armed Forces is explicitly defined as apolotical and non-deliberative. To assert such an active role for them is to establish a fourth branch of government, one that has authority through might, not right.
The Armed Forces, in this formulation, would usurp the roles of the actual established branches of government. To the repeated claim that this was not a coup, or the uncertainty the US State Department inanely claims exists about whether this was a military coup, the de facto regime's response has been: but the military has not taken over any of the three branches of government. What this statement exposes is that in reality, this coup has increased the power of the military, and has permanently upset the balance of power. What is to stop future Armed Forces leadership from deciding that a President is leaning too far toward an ideology of which they do not approve, and acting independently on the theory that they are the guarantor institution?
The fourth item in the Congressional resolution affirms support for
the participation of the political parties and independent candidates, in fortifying participatory democracy.Notice the silences here. Electoral politics is understood to be an activity, not of the people, but of the parties. The parties are given primacy as the means of "participatory democracy", making a mockery of the idea.
But this item is critical for its acknowledgment, however muted, of one of the larger issues: the need to shift from an emphasis on purely representative democracy to greater participation by citizens. The very phrase "participatory democracy" owes its power, most certainly, owes its presence here, to the administration of President Jose Manuel Zelaya Rosales.
And why is this resolution being passed now? Item 5 gives both the rationalization and the threat: the election, the Congress asserts, is the "final solution" of the crisis, and to ensure that solution, they are prepared to make more threats and bring more charges against citizens who attempt to exercise their civil rights even to speak out against the illegitimacy of an election held under the current regime, in light of the current lack of civil rights.
The final solution.
[Resolved] to condemn from now any intent to try to disavow, discredit, or block the electoral process, no matter where such threats come from, warning that it will not hesitate, if that were the case, to carry out the actions and legal complaints that correspond to these actions, since the successful culmination of this process constitutes for the Honduran people the final and definitive solution of the present political crisis that crosses our country.