TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Hondurans vote on Sunday in a presidential election that many expect to result in a second term for the current U.S.-friendly leader, eight years after he supported a coup against a former president who also floated the idea of re-election.
Polls suggest Juan Orlando Hernandez, of the centre-right National Party, will clinch a divisive second term and see off television host Salvador Nasralla, who helms a broad left-right coalition called the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship.
Below are the candidates’ main proposals:
Juan Orlando Hernandez
- A former head of Congress who studied at the State University of New York and Honduras’ military academy, the 49-year-old Hernandez enjoys good rapport with White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and is seen as a reliable U.S. ally in Central America.
- Hernandez has managed to lower the murder rate and raise growth, while expanding his influence into the furthest reaches of the Honduran government.
- Critics say that Hernandez, who was born in a humble, rural family of 17 siblings, has stifled dissent and is seeking to consolidate power. U.S. government officials say they want him to quickly revitalise stalled legislation to place a cap on presidential limits and assuage fears he will not cede power.
- With his slogan that “Change has begun, and should continue,” Hernandez says he will keep up his militarised fight against the gangs that have turned the Central American nation into one of the world’s most violent.
- Hernandez says a so-called Honduras 20/20 plan will help lure investment in textiles, call centres and car manufacturing and lift growth. Hernandez wants to push ahead with special economic zones, a project that has so far yielded few concrete results. He says his policies will create 600,000 new jobs in the next four years.
- A colourful 64-year-old sports and talent TV show host descended from Lebanese immigrants, Nasralla promises to put an end to years of violence, poverty and graft.
- Nasralla’s Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship coalition includes the Liberty and Refoundation Party (LIBRE), which is controlled by ousted former President Manuel Zelaya, who many believe is the true force behind the coalition.
- A non-traditional political figure who has benefited from his entertainment background to build support among those disenchanted by business-as-usual Honduran politics, Nasralla trailed Hernandez by 15 points in the last permitted poll before the election, which took place in September.
- Nasralla says he will ask the United Nations to install an anti-graft body, similar to one operating in Guatemala, to probe and bring charges in corruption cases. Nasralla would maintain the Military Police, created by Hernandez, but wants to found a community police force to work in violent slums. He would also continue the purge of the national police, while hiring up to 25,000 new officers.
- Plans for the economy are vague, but the coalition has proposed lowering sales tax and slashing a Hernandez-imposed corporate levy that has enraged the private sector. The Alliance has proposed a referendum on how the current Constitution should be rewritten, either by Congress or by a new national assembly. It also wants a referendum on stripping the powers of the Supreme Court, which it accuses of being pliant to Hernandez.
Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter and Gustavo Palencia; Editing by Leslie Adler