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The National Democratic Institute is a nonprofit, nonpartisan organization working to support and strengthen democratic institutions worldwide through citizen participation, openness and accountability in government.


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Although Honduras has made progress toward strengthening its democracy since transitioning from military rule in 1982, corruption, inequality and insecurity have undermined citizen confidence in Honduran institutions. Political polarization persists after the 2009 constitutional crisis that culminated in a coup against President Manuel Zelaya.  Although democratic elections took place as scheduled in November 2009, they only ended the immediate political crisis leaving many problems still unsolved.  The weakness of Honduran institutions persists, as demonstrated in December 2012, when the Honduran Congress removed four Supreme Court justices in what was widely considered retribution for repeatedly ruling against congressional legislation. While Congress’ actions were criticized both domestically and internationally as unconstitutional, they were supported by President Porfirio Lobo.

Repeated surveys, including NDI’s 2011 study on barriers to political participation, show high levels of citizen distrust in the country’s political institutions, in particular political parties. The traditional two-party system has, however, begun to open up. Aided by the Cartagena Accords, a reconciliation agreement signed by Zelaya and Lobo in May 2011 that included a call to facilitate political party registration, four new parties were formed and will compete for the first time in the 2012-2013 electoral cycle, including two offshoots of the National Popular Resistance Front civic movement that resisted the coup.

The November 2012 primary elections were the most complex in Honduras’ history. For the first time, three political parties participated: the National Party (Partido Nacional), the Liberal Party (Partido Liberal) and the newly formed Liberty and Renewal Party (Partido Libertad y Refundación). The election results were supported by the projections of an independent civil society observation effort and pointed to an almost 8 percent increase in voter participation, evidence that citizens are gaining confidence in the credibility of the election process.

However, levels of crime and violence continue to rise in Honduras due to drug trafficking, gangs and organized crime, presenting another threat to the nation’s democracy. With the hemisphere’s highest homicide rate, the country’s political and civic leaders are seeking new approaches to keep citizens secure.

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Election Monitoring and Reform

Previous presidential elections have highlighted shortcomings in the Honduran electoral system, particularly in the transmission of election results.  In response, NDI  began working in Honduras in 2008 to help safeguard the integrity of the election processes.

2012-13 Elections

NDI supports the Honduran civil society consortium Let’s Do Democracy (Hagamos Democracia, HD) to conduct   systematic election observation including parallel vote tabulations (PVT) or “quick counts,” a form of independent verification of the election process and results run by outside election observation organizations.  HD conducted quick counts for the presidential races in the 2012 primary and is planning on doing the same for the 2013 general elections.  The Institute also supports Honduran civic organizations to monitor key aspects of the electoral process, including incidents of electoral violence, compliance by parties with new gender quotas, and campaign financing and spending.

2008 – 2009 Elections

NDI supported HD in observing the 2008 primary and 2009 general elections, including the deployment of volunteer election monitors to a random sample of more than 1,000 polling stations to conduct a quick count. The data provided statistically valid and reliable results for the presidential election and on the quality of the election-day process. HD accurately projected the 50 percent turnout, as well as Lobo’s victory.

NDI also deployed an international election assessment mission for the 2009 general elections consisting of 21 experts from the United States, Latin America and Europe.  The delegation’s report noted that, while election authorities had taken some meaningful steps to increase transparency, further reforms were needed to update the voter registry and to overcome the country’s divisions. The full report is available on NDI’s website.

Voter Registry Audit

To increase voter confidence in the credibility of elections, NDI supported HD in analyzing the accuracy of the Honduran voter registry. The study, available on NDI’s website, included actionable recommendations for improving the registry. NDI will provide additional assistance to HD in 2013 to conduct a public awareness campaign promoting the implementation of the report’s recommendations.

Promoting Reconciliation and Leadership

To foster reconciliation following the coup, NDI began a program in April 2011 to increase dialogue between      political parties, citizens and civil society, and to help marginalized groups participate in the political process. NDI has held more than 20 “democracy dialogues” in cities nationwide to facilitate respectful discourse on public policy reforms and to promote reconciliation and inclusion. One dialogue event, co-sponsored with the United Nations Development Programme, focused on promoting women’s political participation by familiarizing women political activists with proposed   legislation to raise the quota for women on parties’ candidate lists. Participants contributed to the advocacy effort that resulted in Congress passing a law raising the quota for women’s participation from 30 to 40 percent for the 2013 elections and to 50 percent in 2017.

In 2011, NDI released a study on barriers to political participation in Honduras based on a public opinion    survey conducted with HD.  The study found very low   levels of citizen confidence in most Honduran institutions and attributed citizen distrust to the political crisis, the coup and the demoralizing effects of pervasive corruption.  The full study, which includes comparative analysis with other countries in Central America, is available on NDI’s website.

NDI has led more than 40 workshops to assist all nine political parties to become more effective, representative and transparent, with an emphasis on increasing the participation of youth and women. NDI supports an annual leadership academy for young leaders from political parties and civil society groups. Additionally, NDI is supporting a series of leadership academies for women running for office in 2012 and 2013. These leadership academies provide traditionally underrepresented groups with tools to help them become knowledgeable and effective political leaders and candidates.

Improving Citizen Security

NDI conducts a course to help members of civil society and political parties create citizen security policy in   Honduras.  The course teaches participants what citizen security is and what they can do to improve it.  NDI also assists municipal citizen security committees develop local public policies to address security problems.  For more information, please see the Central America Citizen Security information sheet for more information.

Contact Information

For more information about these programs, use our contact form or contact:

Washington, D.C.
Kira Ribar, senior program officer

Salvador Romero Ballivián, resident director

Published Publication Title Author
11/15/2013 Prospects for the 2013 Honduran Elections
Jim Swigert
01/22/2013 Honduran Electoral Census Audit 2012
Voter Registry Audit
Neil Nevitte, Jose Cruz, Michelle Brown, Salvador Romero Ballivian
01/27/2010 Honduran General Elections: Final Report of NDI's International Election Assessment Mission
National Democratic Institute
12/22/2009 Final Report on Election Observation and Quick Count for 2009 Elections in Honduras
Hagamos Democracia
12/01/2009 Preliminary Report of the National Democratic Institute International Election Assessment Mission to the Honduran General Elections of Nov. 29, 2009
National Democratic Institue
11/29/2009 Honduras Elections 2009: Hagamos Democracia Bulletins
Hagamos Democracia
Democracy in Honduras: Political Values and Civic Engagement in 2011
Neil Nevitte