The Electoral Process
The president is elected along with three presidential designates (who essentially function as vice presidents) for fouryear terms of office beginning on January 27. The president and the presidential designates must be Honduran by birth, more than thirty years old, and enjoy the rights of Honduran citizenship. Additional restrictions prohibit public servants and members of the military from serving as president. Commanders and general officers of the armed forces and senior officers of the police or state security forces are ineligible. Active-duty members of any armed body are not eligible if they have performed their functions during the previous twelve months before the election. The relatives (fourth degree by blood and second degree by marriage) and spouse of each military officer serving on Consuffaa are also ineligible, as are the relatives of the president and the presidential delegates. Numerous high-level public servants, including the presidential designates, cabinet secretaries and deputy secretaries, members of the TNE, and justices and judges of the judicial branch, are prohibited from serving as president if they have held their positions six months prior to the election.
If the president dies or vacates office, the order of succession is spelled out in Article 242 of the 1982 constitution. The presidential designates are the first three potential successors; the National Congress elects one to exercise executive power for the remainder of the presidential term. The president of the National Congress and the president of the Supreme Court of Justice are the fourth and fifth successors, respectively. During a temporary absence, the president may call upon one of the presidential designates to replace him.
The president, who is the representative of the Honduran state, has a vast array of powers as head of the executive branch. The constitution delineates forty-five presidential powers and responsibilities. The president has the responsibility to comply with and enforce the constitution, treaties and conventions, laws, and other provisions of Honduran law. He or she directs the polices of the state and fully appoints and dismisses secretaries and deputy secretaries of the cabinet and other high-ranking officials and employees (including governors of the eighteen departments) whose appointment is not assigned to other authorities.
To be elected to the National Congress, one must be a Honduran by birth who enjoys the rights of citizenship and is at least twenty-one years old. There are a number of restrictions regarding eligibility for election to the National Congress. Certain government officials and relatives of officials are not eligible if the position was held six months prior to the election. All officials or employees of the executive and judicial branches, except teachers and health-care workers, are prohibited from being elected, as are active duty members of any armed force, highranking officials of the decentralized institutions, members of the TNE, the attorney general and deputy attorney general, the comptroller general, and the director and deputy director of administrative probity. Spouses and relatives (fourth degree by blood and second degree by marriage) of certain high ranking civilian officials and certain military officials are also prohibited from serving in the National Congress, as are delinquent debtors of the National Treasury.
The nine principal justices and seven alternates on the Supreme Court of Justice are elected by the National Congress for a term of four years concomitant with the presidential and legislative terms of office. The National Congress also selects a president for the Supreme Court, and justices may be reelected. To be eligible, a justice must be Honduran by birth, a lawyer, a member of the bar association, more than thirty-five years of age, enjoy the rights of citizenship, and have held the post of trial judge or a judge on a court of appeals for at least five years.
Since the country returned to civilian democratic rule in 1982, national elections in Honduras have been held every four years for the presidency, the National Congress, and municipal officials. As provided for in the constitution and in the country's Electoral and Political Organizations Law, the National Elections Tribunal (Tribunal Nacional de Elecciones--TNE) is an autonomous and independent body, with jurisdiction throughout the country and with responsibility for the organization and conduct of elections. The composition of the TNE consists of one principal member and an alternate proposed by the Supreme Court, and one principal member and an alternate proposed by each of the four registered political parties, the PLH, the PNH, the Pinu, and the PDCH. The presidency of the tribunal rotates among the members, with a term lasting one year. The TNE also names members of Departmental Elections Tribunals and Local Elections Tribunals, each with representatives from the four legally inscribed parties. The TNE has numerous rights and responsibilities, including inscribing political parties and candidates, registering voters, resolving electoral complaints, establishing the time and places for voting, training poll workers, and counting and reporting votes.
The National Registry of Persons, a dependency of the TNE, is responsible for issuing to all Hondurans exclusive identity cards, which also serve as voter registration cards, and for preparing the National Electoral Census at least five months before an election. All Hondurans are required by law to register with the National Registry of Persons.
According to some observers, a fundamental problem with the TNE is its politicization. Observers charge that the staffs of both the TNE and the National Registry of Persons are predominantly composed of political appointees with little competence or commitment. Representation is skewed toward the party in power because of the representative proposed by the Supreme Court, which essentially is a representative of the government in power. In 1985 President Suazo Córdova brazenly used the TNE to attempt to support unrepresentative factions of the two major parties. Military leader General Walter López Reyes impeded Suazo Córdova's attempt by modifying the electoral system so that party primaries and the general elections were held at the same time. The winner would be the leading candidate of the party receiving the most votes. As a result, PLH candidate José Azcona Hoyo was elected president by receiving just 25 percent of the vote, compared with the PNH candidate, Rafael Leonardo Callejas Romero, who received 45 percent. Subsequently, however, for the 1989 elections, separate party primaries were required to elect the candidates, resulting in just one candidate from each party.
As the 1993 electoral campaign got underway, the PLH made numerous charges that the National Electoral Census did not include the names of many of its party members. Despite the charges, observers maintained that the elections would probably be as legitimate as the past four elections (Constituent Assembly elections in 1980 and national elections in 1981, 1985, and 1989), which were conducted without serious irregularities.
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