The legal framework in Honduras provides an adequate basis for holding democratic elections in line with the relevant international standards. The legislation, primarily composed of the 1982 Constitution and the 2004 Law on Elections and Political Organisations, was complemented by the promulgation, in January 2017, of the Law on Financing, Transparency and Auditing of Political Parties and Candidates, also known as the Ley de Política Limpia, the Law on Clean Politics. In line with one of the main recommendations made by the EU EOM in 2013, the new legislation imposes caps on election campaign spending and limits on political party funding. The new law also reinforces transparency measures requiring parties to report their income and spending, in addition to strengthening the prohibition on the use of State resources for campaign purposes, contravention of which now carries heavier sanctions.
The Law on Clean Politics established an Auditing Unit, attached to the Tribunal Supremo Electoral (TSE) but enjoying a certain autonomy. The Unit began its activities just three months before the start of the election campaign, with severely limited resources in terms of budget, staffing and logistical support. It will only be possible to evaluate the scope and impact of the Clean Politics Unit (Unidad de Política Limpia) when the Unit is genuinely operative. Doubts were also expressed on the Unit’s independence, which has been questioned in some circles, based on the political affiliations of its three commissioners to the PNH, the PLH and Libertad y Refundación (Libre).
Since 2014, the National Congress has launched numerous electoral reform initiatives. However, notwithstanding the Law on Financing and Transparency, only two relatively minor modifications have been approved: the first enables alliances between a party’s internal movements in the context of primary elections, at the initiative of the Libre and National parties, and the other amended the Electoral Law to make it consistent with the provisions of the Law on Financing and Transparency.
The EU EOM has observed many of the same challenges to the current process which incited it to recommend, in 2013, measures such as staffing polling stations with politically unaffiliated citizens, as well as the de-politicisation and modernisation of the Civil Registry (Registro Nacional de las Personas), and to a lesser extent, a clarification of the electoral justice mechanisms for each stage of the process.
The Tribunal Supremo Electoral made use of its ample regulatory powers and approved 13 regulations complementing the Electoral Law, as well as adopting numerous guidelines and agreements. In general, the TSE published regulations in good time, with the exception of the regulation concerning the transmission and tabulation of results, and the regulation regarding appeals to nullify results and the special recounts (escrutinios especiales), both of which were adopted just a few days before the elections. The latter regulation nonetheless constitutes an improvement in comparison to the previous elections, since it clarifies the circumstances in which citizens can request special recounts, as well as the procedures to follow in order to do so.
However, the EU EOM considers that the TSE regulation which establishes alternation mechanisms in the electoral lists erodes the principle of gender parity enshrined in the Electoral Law. Finally, the EU EOM regrets the lack of a regulation establishing a requirement to provide evidence that citizens’ changes of residence are genuine, before these requested changes are recorded in the voter register.
The current TSE was elected by the outgoing Congress in early 2014, just a few weeks before the inauguration of the new Congress. As a result, its composition does not reflect the multiparty landscape which emerged following the 2013 elections, since the members of Congress from the emerging parties, Libre and the Partido Anticorrupción (PAC), did not participate in the election of the TSE magistrates. In 2016 Congress debated and voted on first reading a proposal to increase the number of TSE magistrates, which would have enabled including the new political forces, but the reform was never approved.