President-elect of Honduras hopes for small majority in Congress | Politics News

Honduran President-elect Xiomara Castro, the first woman to lead the Central American nation, is awaiting the results of close legislative races to see whether her left-wing party would gain control of Congress, a day after her main rival admitted defeat.

While the right-wing National Party’s 12-year grip on power is expected to end when Castro is inaugurated in January, attention shifted Wednesday to the plight of the 128 members of Congress.

The balance of power in Congress is in the air, but preliminary results seem to point to the possibility of a simple majority for Castro’s party and its allies – if the current voting trend continues.

This would make it easier to pass some of Castro’s legislative priorities, but his promise to call an assembly to rewrite the Honduran constitution could still be stalled as it would require a two-thirds majority.

Denis Gomez, a former member of the electoral council, estimated that Castro’s Free Party would win 51 seats, while its main ally, the party of vice-president-elect Salvador Nasralla, would win 14, giving the ruling coalition a majority of ‘a member.

But Gomez stressed that this projected composition of the unicameral legislature could still change if the tally trend changes.

It is not known when the final vote count will be announced.

“If this majority does not hold, they should negotiate,” he said, most likely with the center-right Liberal Party, which, after the National Party, should form the third largest bloc at the next Congress.

Political analyst Raul Pineda was less careful about Castro’s influence on new lawmakers. He said his party, together with the vice president’s party, will have “a simple majority to reform or repeal the laws.”

But Castro and his allies would need to withdraw nearly 20 more votes, most likely from the Liberal Party, to achieve a two-thirds majority for constitutional reforms, Pineda added.

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 takes on the role of president in the Central American country.

Unemployment rate exceeds 10%, northern Honduras was devastated by two major hurricanes last year, and street gangs have weighed on the economy with extortion rackets and violence, causing migration to United States.

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

Castro’s government could present challenges, but also opportunities for the administration of US President Joe Biden, which had sought to keep his predecessor at bay from concerns about corruption and links to drug gangs.

Many Castro supporters remember the US government’s initial slowness in labeling the overthrow of Castro’s husband Manuel Zelaya a coup and then working closely with the National Party Presidents that followed.

From an American perspective, Washington remembers how Castro and Zelaya grew closer to then-Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez.

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

Despite opponents’ efforts to portray Castro as a communist, pundits expected her to rule as a centrist with a desire to uplift Honduran poor while attracting foreign investment.

In a speech in June, Castro pledged to deliver a plan to the Biden administration to “combat and tackle the real causes of migration.”

Castro describes the emigration of Hondurans in terms of flight to escape inequality, corruption, poverty and violence. It’s not much different from how senior officials in the Biden administration framed the question and where they said they wanted to focus US aid.

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

“I think the Biden administration has a huge opportunity to address the issue of migration,” Castro said in the June speech. “First, recognize that they have a share of responsibility in what is happening in our country”, she added, noting the coup of 2009.

Castro hammered the administration of outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernandez for corruption.

It was the Hernandez administration that let the Organization of American States’ anti-corruption mission in Honduras expire in 2020 after its work hit some National Party lawmakers for alleged abuse of public funds.

She said she was interested in returning an international anti-corruption mission to Honduras. That, combined with a strong and independent attorney general, could begin to tackle one of the country’s deepest problems.

US federal prosecutors have taken a closer look at corruption in drug trafficking cases that have reached high-ranking Honduran politicians. Most notable was the conviction of Hernandez’s brother, a former federal lawmaker, for drug trafficking which earned him a life sentence in the United States.

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