TEGUCIGALPA – Members of the ruling right-wing National Party were elected to the top positions in the Honduran Congress on Tuesday amid raucous protests from opposition lawmakers.
Cries of “murderer” and “JOH (President Juan Orlando Hernandez) Out” were heard as pro- and anti-government legislators nearly came to blows.
Mauricio Oliva, who has served as speaker since 2014, was re-elected with the votes of 67 of the 128 members, representing the right-wing National Party and its allies.
All the leadership posts went to National Party lawmakers.
Opposition members said the majority barred them from any meaningful participation in the session.
“Though we knew we weren’t going to win, they didn’t let us speak – a right that belongs to us – and for that we protested,” a legislator from the main opposition Libre party, Edgardo Castro, told reporters afterward.
Outside the legislative chamber, dozens of supporters of the Alliance of Opposition to the Dictatorship gathered to denounce “fraud” in the Nov. 26 presidential election pitting their candidate, Salvador Nasralla, against incumbent Hernandez.
The Alliance partisans were kept 100 meters (yards) away from Congress by a contingent of soldiers and riot police.
Nasralla and the Alliance have vowed to prevent Hernandez from being sworn-in for a second term on Saturday.
Both Hernandez and Nasralla claimed victory hours after the polls closed on Nov. 26.
While the first partial results issued by the TSE election court showed Nasralla with what officials described as an “irreversible” lead, an interruption in the tabulation was followed by the release of figures giving Hernandez the advantage.
On Dec. 17, the TSE proclaimed the right-wing incumbent the winner with 42.95 percent of the vote, compared with 41.24 percent for Nasralla.
Five days later, the US State Department congratulated Hernandez on his victory, while also acknowledging “irregularities” in the process, as pointed out by election observers from the Organization of American States and the European Union.
Hernandez’s re-election bid was controversial from the start, as the Honduran Constitution limits the president to one term.
His candidacy was permitted on the basis of a May 2015 ruling by five Supreme Court judges who owed their appointments to Hernandez.
The pretext for the 2009 coup against Zelaya in 2009 was that his call for a non-binding referendum on constitutional reform was a gambit aimed at allowing him to seek re-election, though any such change could not have taken effect in time for him to run in that year’s presidential election.