Honduras president-elect hopes for small majority in Congress

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Xiomara Castro hopes her leftist party can garner Congress votes to rewrite the country’s constitution.

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Honduran president-elect Xiomara Castro, the first woman to lead the Central American nation, awaits the results of a tough legislative race to see if her leftist party will regain control of Congress, a day after her main rival was defeated. Got it.

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With Castro’s inauguration in January ending the right-wing National Party’s 12-year hold on power, attention turned to the fate of the 128-member Congress on Wednesday.

The Congress’s balance of power is up in the air, but preliminary results point to the prospect of a simple majority for Castro’s party and its allies – if the current vote trends.

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This would make it easier for some of Castro’s legislative priorities to pass, but his pledge to convene a assembly to rewrite the Honduran constitution could still be blocked because it would require a two-thirds majority.

Former Electoral Council member Denis Gómez projected that Castro’s Free Party would win 51 seats, while its main ally, the party of vice-president-elect Salvador Nasralla, would get 14, giving the governing coalition a one-man majority.

But Gomez insisted that this supposed makeup of the unicameral legislature could still change if the count changes.

It is not clear when the final counting of votes will be announced.

“If he doesn’t have a majority, he will have to negotiate,” he said, most likely with the centre-right Liberal Party, which is projected to form the third-largest bloc in the next Congress after the National Party.

Political analyst Ral Pineda was less cautious about Castro’s influence on incoming lawmakers. He added that his party, working with the vice president’s party, would have “a simple majority to reform or repeal laws”.

But Castro and his allies would need to snatch about 20 more votes from the Liberal Party for constitutional reforms to reach a two-thirds majority, Pineda said.

The same super-majority would also be needed to elect new members of the Supreme Court and a new attorney general.

challenges and opportunities

In addition to political wrangling in Congress, Castro will face other major challenges as she steps into the role of president in the Central American country.

Unemployment is above 10 percent, northern Honduras was ravaged by two major hurricanes last year, and street gangs have dragged the economy down with extortion and violence, leading to emigration to the United States.

US Secretary of State Anthony Blinken congratulated Castro on Tuesday night’s victory and said he looked forward to working with him to “strengthen democratic institutions, promote inclusive economic growth and fight corruption”.

Castro’s government could present challenges but also provide opportunities for the administration of US President Joe Biden, which sought to keep his predecessor at arm’s length over concerns about corruption and ties to drug gangs .

Many Castro supporters remember the US government’s initial slowdown in overthrowing Castro’s husband Manuel Zelaya from the presidency in 2009, and then later working closely with National Party presidents.

From the American point of view, Washington remembers how Castro and Zelaya reconciled with then-Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

But analysts have said that Castro and the US government share a common ground in at least three areas: immigration, drug trafficking and corruption. And with strained relations between Washington and the leaders of El Salvador and Guatemala, the US government could use a productive relationship with Honduras.

Despite opponents’ efforts to portray Castro as a communist, experts expected the regime to be a centrist with a desire to uplift Honduras’ poor while attracting foreign investment.

In a speech in June, Castro pledged to propose a plan to the Biden administration to “counter and address the real causes of migration.”

Castro describes the emigration to Honduran in terms of flight to escape inequality, corruption, poverty and violence. This is not much different from how senior Biden administration officials have framed the issue, and where they have said they want to focus on US aid.

But Castro also places some of the blame on the US government.

“I believe the Biden administration has a great opportunity to address the issue of migration,” Castro said in a June speech. “First of all, recognizing that they have a responsibility for everything that happens in our country,” she said, referring to the 2009 coup.

Castro has targeted the administration of incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández over corruption.

It was Hernandez’s administration that allowed the Organization of the American States Anti-Corruption Mission in Honduras to end in 2020, when its work touched off some National Party lawmakers for alleged misappropriation of public funds.

She has stated that she is interested in the return of an international anti-corruption mission in Honduras. He, together with a strong, independent attorney general, can begin to tackle one of the country’s most pressing problems.

US federal prosecutors have placed corruption under a microscope in drug trafficking cases that have reached high-ranking Honduran politicians. Most notable was Hernandez’s brother, a former federal lawmaker, who pleaded guilty to drug trafficking charges that sent him a life sentence in the US.

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