Honduras election, 2013

Honduras held a general election (president and unicameral congress) today. Xiomara Castro has claimed victory in the presidential contest, although exit polls offer conflicting reports of which candidate is in the lead. Castro is the wife of Manuel Zelaya, the president who was overthrown in a coup in 2009.

Honduras has been dominated by two traditional parties (Liberal and National) throughout its history–when it has not been dominated by its military, that is. The country has been democratic since 1981, other than the 2009 coup. (The 2009 election was held on schedule afterwards.)

Whoever wins this election, one result will apparently be the shattering of this long partisan duopoly. Castro is running as the head of a new party/movement, called Libre, formed out of the 2009 crisis, while both traditional parties are also contesting with their own presidential candidates.

Honduras stands out as one of the few countries using proportional representation for its legislature to have a series of elections in which one party almost always wins a majority of the seats, and often also of the votes.  The winning party has averaged 51.2% of the votes and 52.7% of the seats since 1981. Only in 2005 has the election not resulted in a majority in congress (48.4%) and only in 1997-2005 was the largest party short of half the votes (lowest 46.4% in 1997). The effective number of parties has never reached even 2.7 by votes or 2.5 by seats. Will this result be significantly more fragmented? It seems likely.

The National Assembly is elected in a modestly proportional system: at least as of 2009, it was a 128 seats in districts with an average magnitude of just over seven, using simple quota and largest remainders. Since 2005, lists have been open.

The president is elected in a single round, by plurality.

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(Past results referenced from data in my files)

5 thoughts on “Honduras election, 2013

  1. It sounds to me like the single round plurality presidential election may be a reason why the country remains a two party system.

    Not that there is anything wrong with a two party system if that is what the people are freely voting for.

  2. Less objectionable than most versions of FPTP since a PR system for the legislature (small magnitude, but largest remainder) means that parties can accurately gauge their first-choice voting support to determine who should stand down for whom. Analogous to MMP in that respect.

  3. Mark, maybe. In fact, I have published research suggesting FPTP for president should mean fewer parties than PR might otherwise promote–“contamination”. Still, there are (or have been) other cases of presidentialism in which the president is elected by plurality and the congress by PR, and none has had such dominance by the two parties as Honduras. So probably there is more to it.

    But I do not understand Tom’s point, as there is no stand-down in Honduras. There are other parties running for both president and congress, but before this election, they just did not get many votes–for either branch. (For that matter, parties do not do stand-down agreements in typical MMP elections, either.)

    [edited for clarity]

  4. The results show a winner, Juan Hernandez (National) with only 34%, so by far the lowest ever for a Honduran president. The margin was over five percentage points over Castro. The Liberal got less than 21% and the Anti-Corruption Party candidate, Salvador Nasralla, won 15.6%.

    Quite a fragmented result, with the effective number of presidential candidates at 3.74; it will be interesting to see the congressional seat allocation.

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