Honduras (III)

Is Honduras’s ruling party planning to rig an election? (The Economist)
Allegations of outright vote-rigging are widespread in Honduras but difficult to prove. The Economist has obtained a recording that, if authentic, suggests the ruling party has plans to distort results in the upcoming elections. Hondurans will be voting in congressional and municipal elections as well as the presidential one.

Roughly two hours long, the recording appears to be of a training session for members of the National Party who will be manning voting tables at polling stations on election day. The Economist received the recording from a participant. At the outset of the session, the woman leading it asks participants to hand over their mobile phones, saying, “Estamos en confianza, somos todos nacionalistas” (“this stays between us; we’re all National Party members”). She identifies herself as an employee of the government.

She reminds the trainees that they have attended a previous training session and that they have been handpicked through a rigorous process. “Today is Plan B,” she then announces. “Plan B means we’re on the offensive.” It appears to be a scheme for fraudulently boosting the vote of the National Party at the expense of its rivals. (...)

By The Economist’s count, the session’s leader advocates at least five vote-rigging methods, couching them in banal terms such as “strategy” and “technique” and interspersing them with legitimate advice. The first, and the key to all the others, is for National Party representatives to obtain poll-workers’ credentials from smaller parties. This would help them outvote their rivals at the polling stations in case of disputes. The woman in charge of the session advises trainees not to tell observers which party they represent, but just to show the party credential they have been given. In the last national elections, in 2013, small “suitcase” parties were thought to have sold or given their credentials to larger ones, those with more people available to man voting tables. On the tape the session leader talks of allowing National Party workers to pose as representatives of Vamos and other small parties. The credentials of the National Party will bear the names of its workers—to prevent fraud, says Mr Zelaya. But those of the smaller parties will not, making it easier to transfer them. Vamos, for one, may not co-operate. Last week it returned some 18,000 credentials to the TSE, saying it did not want to participate in the clandestine trade.

The second trick is to allow National Party voters to vote more than once: avoid marking off their names and do not ink their pinky fingers after they have voted, the trainer suggests. “If you recognise me, let me in, don’t stain my finger, and I leave with my mouth closed,” she says.

She suggests three ways to alter the vote during the counting process: spoiling ballots by adding extra marks; filling in leftover ballots; and damaging the bar-code on tally sheets that record a majority for opposition parties. “If I’ve lost the polling station, why do I care if [the tally sheet] arrives at the tribunal?” she asks.

The last of these techniques is especially good for “women who use fake nails or men who are strong”, the trainer says. Its purpose is to delay the inclusion of tally sheets favouring the opposition in the preliminary vote count. Damaged tally sheets may not be included in that first vote count. Tally sheets won by the National Party, by contrast, should be signed, sealed and delivered as quickly as possible. The preliminary count is “the one we’re going to win with”, she says.

The session leader supplements these instructions with more general advice. The techniques she recommends should be used “discreetly, with intelligence and astuteness”, she advises. More than once she urges trainees to remain alert and to take advantage of inattention by representatives of rival parties. It helps to “know your allies and enemies” at the voting table, she says. The goal is to put the latter “to sleep”. But be careful if he is “a tiger...They know these strategies, too.”

[Via Fruits and Votes]

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