Tegucigalpa, Honduras – On Sunday a significant number of Hondurans participated in their country’s democratic process by voting in elections that were credible and peaceful.  With preliminary results indicating a turnout that paralleled if not exceeded the 2005 elections, IRI observers witnessed an election free of violence and overt acts of intimidation.

IRI’s delegation was led by David J. Kramer, former Assistant Secretary of State for Democracy, Human Rights, and Labor and a Senior Transatlantic Fellow at the German Marshall Fund.  The delegation included representatives from Mexico, the Netherlands, Peru, Poland, Spain and the United States.

Despite the crisis of this past year, including the events of June 28, the Honduran people participated in an election process that started more than a year ago.  This constitutionally mandated process began with primary elections in November 2008 in which the two main presidential candidates, Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo and Elvin Santos, were selected by their parties.  The November 2009 elections were managed by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), an independent body whose members had also been in place prior to 2009.

IRI’s delegation commends the poll workers, who were well prepared, enthusiastic and professional in carrying out their duties.  Despite minor irregularities such as isolated cases of late poll openings and missing materials, the TSE oversaw an election process in which voters were freely able to express their will.  IRI observers specifically noted the degree to which young Hondurans participated in the process as poll workers.

Contrary to concerns about disruptions and violence, IRI observers witnessed an environment that was safe and free of serious problems on Election Day.  Observers also recognized the role of the national police and armed forces in appropriately providing safety and security throughout the country.

Elections are a process of pre-election environment, pre-election administration, Election Day voting, vote counting and post-election adjudication, resulting in acceptance of legitimate results.  In the case of Honduras, the election campaign was not without problems.  Chief among these were emergency measures which briefly limited political space and inhibited free expression.  These measures were lifted after several weeks, and were followed by a period during which the political parties and their candidates were able to compete freely.  Further, while IRI’s delegation recognizes the importance of the TSE to quickly tabulate and announce results, the process used on November 29, which involved the technical transmission of 15,295 individual polling station results, warrants improvement.

In the lead-up to the elections, IRI’s delegation concentrated on the immediate pre-electoral environment and Election Day.  IRI’s delegation monitored voting and ballot counting in more than 100 polling stations in Choluteca, Comayagua, La Ceiba, Olancho, San Pedro Sula and Tegucigalpa.

Other IRI delegates were:

IRI staff also served as observers and assisted in the mission.  IRI staff was led by Georges A. Fauriol, Senior Vice President at IRI, and Alex Sutton, Director for Latin American and Caribbean programs.

Prior to Election Day, IRI’s observers were briefed by the TSE on the rights and responsibilities of international observers and Honduran election law.  They were also briefed by representatives from the U.S. Embassy, international and Honduran nongovernmental organizations, Honduran media and representatives of the candidates and political parties.

IRI has monitored more than 135 elections in 43 countries since 1983.

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