Responses to the Coup d'etat in Honduras on Sunday June 28, with special emphasis on producing English-language versions of commentaries by Honduran scholars and editorial writers and addressing the confusion encouraged by lack of basic knowledge about Honduras.

Saturday, December 19, 2009

100.07% And Still Counting

The Tribunal Supremo Electoral's website reporting results started off today reporting that 100.03 percent of the vote had been counted. Upon returning to it later in the day, it now reports results at 100.07 percent! They say they won't declare the results official until at least Tuesday, December 23 but we can make some points now, even if the vote totals change a little later.

The TSE has now counted 2,297,465 votes for president, for a 49.94% turnout. This is almost exactly the percentage vote projected on election day by NDI-Hagamos Democracia. So much for the exaggerated claims of 62% voting. And so much for CNN's December 5 proclamation that their analysis indicated a 56.6% turnout.

For the record, compare this with the 55% voter turnout for the 2005 presidential election of José Manuel Zelaya Rosales reported by the Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance. (The same source reported a level of 46% participation in Honduran congressional elections in 2005.)

There are 700,000 more voters on the official voting rolls today than in 2005, but only 107,000 more total votes were cast than in 2005. A variety of analysts have noted that the voter rolls probably include some names that should be purged, and have also pointed to limited opportunities for Hondurans abroad to vote. But even these effects would not justify claiming that the 2009 vote was "massive", the term used by the de facto regime and echoed in pro-election statements by other governments.

Spoiled and blank ballots each individually beat out any of the third party candidates by significant amounts. In the TSE final count, Porfirio Lobo is credited with 57%, Elvin Santos with 38%, and no other named candidate received more than 2%.

Spoiled and blank ballots constituted 155,584 of the total number of ballots this year. Some proportion of these are self-evidently votes of protest against the regime. For example, in the La Tribuna article noting the null/spoiled ballots, you'll see a picture of a spoiled ballot. Written across it are the words "Golpistas hijos de puta", definitely a protest vote. Carlos Romero, director of elections for the TSE lamented the large number of spoiled ballots since the TSE had invested 50 million lempiras ($2.6 million) in training the electoral officials and public education specifically to reduce the number of spoiled ballots.

Taking the spoiled and null ballots into account, there were just over 2.1 million valid votes counted, about what Boz expected if the downward trend in voting participation continued as it had over the last 5 elections.

This is far fewer valid votes than the 2.4 million Boz proposed would be needed for the golpistas to declare the election a solid endorsement of the coup. At the same time, it is far more than the 1.5 million valid votes that Boz argued would indicate the call to boycott elections had a major effect. Instead, the valid vote count falls in the middle ground between 1.7 and 2.3 million valid votes where Boz suggested both sides could claim victory, as indeed they have.

But by claiming "massive" voter turnout, now falsified by the TSE's own vote count; by trying to redefine the proportional turnout by arbitrarily deducting some number of voters they decided should not be counted; and by working so furiously to misrepresent the levels of participation; the de facto regime has shown that it felt it needed something far more definite than it got out of this election.

We would suggest that the relevant measure of whether this election met the expectations of the coup regime is somewhat different. Less than 50% of those listed as eligible voted in this election. Of that number, almost 7% turned in ballots that were blank or deliberately spoiled, meaning that the final presidential selection fell to about 43% of the electorate. The trend of alienation from governance that already existed in Honduras intensified with an election that was in no way free and fair.

The big difference this time: hundreds of thousands of people now count themselves as part of a resistance movement that will influence elections in the future. And that includes some large proportion of those who did not vote, or submitted spoiled or blank ballots, as well as those who stayed at home on election day. Porfirio Lobo has no mandate from the people, to add to his lack of influence in his own party and in Honduras' national government.


felipe said...

You said
"Less than 50% of those listed as eligible voted in this election. Of that number, almost 7% turned in ballots that were blank or deliberately spoiled, meaning that the final presidential selection fell to about 43% of the electorate."
Check your arithmetic. If the words are right, the final percentage should be 46.5, not 43.

RAJ said...

Sorry you are confused as I was by the syntax here, leading me to do the math wrong. Let's walk through it:

Over 50% of those on the voting roll did not vote.

That then leaves less than 50% of the electorate handing in ballots to be counted.

About 7% of the ballots handed in were null or spoiled.

That means 93% of the ballots of less than 49.94% of the electorate were valid.

This means you are indeed right, that 46% of the total electorate turned in valid ballots.

Does the extra 3% make for a better argument for legitimacy? if so, then I apologize for doing the math wrong originally. But less than 50% is less than 50% and it is not the proclaimed "massive" 62% or even CNN's self-proclaimed conservative estimate of 56.6%.

But I think the more important point is that 7% of those who participated in the election did not hand in valid ballots-- and some unknowable number of those deliberately spoiled or handed in null ballots in protest, as illustrated by the photo we linked to.

As we noted in comparing the absolute voting numbers to those Boz set as his expectations, the 2.1 million valid ballots falls far short of the 2.4 million he felt would indicate voting in support of the regime. Up to 300,000 missing voters here, plus the 150,000 voters whose ballots were null or void, is a lot of voters who were either disaffected, actively protesting, or simply so cynical about Honduran governance that they decided not to participate.

Meno said...

Ok so lets get to the point shall we? The voting was pretty much the same as the last time everyone had a chance to vote. So, what is the story here? That maybe 7 percent of the voters turned in spoiled ballots or refused to vote? Doesn't seem like much of a resistance win here. If the votes are pretty much the same as they were in the last elections, then the resistance didn't bring much to the table even though they claim they did. 7 percent, that isn't enough to claim victory. Sounds like a hollow victory, with the results of the elections being almost the same as they were last elections give or take a few percentage points plus or minus for error.

Why no one is concentrating on that fact is beyond me? Last elections 46 percent voted. This elections, between 42.9 and 46 percent voted. I don't see any real change we can believe in here between the two. Sounds to me like maybe Mel had the support of only a few percentage points.

And why are we claiming that over 50 percent did not vote as if we won something, when in fact there has never been anything close to a 100 percent voter participation in Honduras? Sounds like we want to make it look like we won when in fact we lost, and just hate to admit defeat. Granted the elections were not fair or transparent, but elections all over the world are pretty much the same bullshit, you can't really trust any election to be fair open and transparent anywhere in the world. That world of magical realism doesn't exist, matter of fact, I don't think it ever did. Fraud is a way of life for politicians, and voting is just a way to make the sheep feel they have a voice, when in fact it's all bullshit to begin with.

Why don't we all just wake up and realize we live in a shit world, and there are few things we can do about it? Maybe then we will all realize that the way to effect positive change is through one's own communities at the local level, Screw the national parties, they never had our interests at heart and never will.

RAJ said...

Elections in Honduras have been steadily declining in participation.

Survey research on trust in government institutions in Latin America shows that Honduras has the lowest levels of belief in government.

So in essence, I agree with you that election turnout is kind of beside the point, because simply voting (especially in elections where the selection of candidates is largely closed) is a very nominal and unsatisfactory way to measure citizen participation.

BUT-- it is still worth pointing out that the official election results do not support the exaggerated claims by Honduran de facto regime and the US State Department of "massive" turnout.

So we will continue to publicize this.

Anonymous said...

Not considered on this blog is the possibility that ballot boxes may have been stuffed. It is hard for me to understand why it would take almost three weeks to count the vote if there were not some kind of shenanigans.

Therefore, Meno's belief that nothing was accomplished by the boycott is not correct. The resistance may not have succeeded in exposing just how bad the sham elections were, but neither did the dictatorship persuade anyone except its adherents of the legitimacy of the elections.

Rarely do political battles result in decisive victories. Rather, they come in small portions, like the tide coming in. A few more people now realize that CNN is not to be trusted. A few more people understand that they should not rely on American leadership to do justice. A few more people have learned to turn to their own community to create change.

As Leonard Cohen sings,

It's coming through a hole in the air, from those nights in Ti-ananmen Square. It's coming from the feel that this ain't exactly real, or it's real, but it ain't exactly there.

That's how change comes.


RNS said...

Lets just say the computers got in the way of the TSE actually counting votes.

Anyhow, its the mesas electorales, all 15260 of them that actually count the votes. They then fill out an acta electoral, and ship it, and the ballot box back to Tegucigalpa.

At the TSE facility, they extract the acta and make sure its legally correct before they enter it into the computer system set up in a ballroom in the Marriot Hotel. Those computers are connected via a network to the TSE's main computer(s).

The network has been consistently a work can happen if the computers in the ballroom cannot talk to the main database. The phone system broke down on November 29, as did the computer system, so the count reported on that day was based on cell phone reported voting, totaled by hand, and largely bogus and inflated as kaosenlared showed.

There were close to 5000 mesas that had problems, either with placing the acta inside the ballot box, or someone forgetting to sign it. Those had to wait until the end to be opened and recounted.

There were an additional 1700 reported either more votes than were possible from the mesa electoral, or had blotchy numbers that could not be clearly read, according to TSE magistrate David Matamoros. Those are the actas they're still working through.

It gives me no confidence in the TSE's programmers that the number of completed actas can total more than 100%, as it currently does on the TSE website (100.10% and still counting). Each .01% represents an additional 152.6 actas electorales, and potentially up to an additional 53,410 votes. If they can get something as simple as that wrong, what else have they programmed wrong.

Carina said...

Blank Votes: It is impossible to infer motives from blank votes and they cannot be examined in isolation. For comparison, the huge win by Morales (impressive in any country) in Bolivia came with 2.7% blank votes, and no one made mention of this. The previous elections there were 4.1 and 4.4% blank votes and, again, not only was this not a "democratic" story, it wasn't even a footnote to a story. The primary or real focus would need to be on destroyed ballots, not blank ones.

RAJ said...

Well, OK, if you say so.

But I said we could not know what level of the blank (null) ballots in the current election were deposited in protest. I think that is more defensible than your asserting that they absolutely have no meaning. And the difference between ca. 7% and ca. 4% would be a significant difference: it would be 63,000 votes, more or less.

The primary focus though, I would continue to insist, should be on the continuing decline in participation, not as a specific measure of a current protest, but as the seriously worrisome index of the lack of trust in government and disillusionment about government and democracy that social science surveys have been showing in Honduras since long before the coup.