Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Suffrage in Honduras: Democracy at its best?
by Beatriz Lovo

November 24 is the date when Hondurans will crowd the polling booths and elect their new public officials. Each voter will receive three ballots in which they can choose from 9 candidates for president, 9 candidates for mayor and 2,682 for Congress, half of which, by law, are women. (Candidates for Congress are competing for 298 seats.)

Traditionally, Honduras has been a bi-partisan country, but not anymore. This time, there is an ample offer to choose from (though non represent the cream of the crop). Everything is set and a transparent uneventful election is expected, with international overseers to testify for the legitimacy of the process.

For three months prior to the election, candidates are free to advertise in any medium they can afford. The streets of Tegucigalpa appear covered with banners and flyers of dozens of candidates looking for voters’ blessings and recognition. Many upload their pictures in the social media, where they are seen kissing babies and hugging poor people they have never met before and will never see again. Television and radio advertise candidates for congress, each with its party’s flag and particular hymns and anthems.

What could possibly be wrong with this picture? At a glance, the process exudes freedom and democracy and variety and civil liberties…The problem is not local, but global. Instead of using the media to inform and guide voters to make educated choices, candidates promote themselves as brands, much the same way as do toothpaste vendors or cell phone stores. The messages are so funny, it’s sad.

One candidate for congress announces in a jingle that he has dimples, while a candidate for designate (vice president) claims voters should elect him because he is handsome. Several have given themselves pet names like Vilo, Nata or Basha, but no one knows their real names the way they will appear on the ballot. One claims he likes football like the regular Joe and another has been aided by Photoshop to appear in his 40s when he is actually in his 80s. One of Tegucigalpa’s candidate for mayor has a slogan: “At your service, dude”. (He’s already lost twice using it, but the third time’s the charm.) And my very favorite “My heart has a moustache”, which comes from a candidate for congress who is running because the proprietary candidate of his spot died after being elected in the primaries and he was known as Mr. Moustache.

So who will Hondurans elect? Who is the better choice? Sadly, we may never know. In the end, most will vote for the catchiest jingle, the better looking or the least corrupt. I wish a time will come in our democratic history in which the media are used to advertise government planning, well prepared resumes and job experience.

The truth is, we tend to follow media trends from more developed, first world countries like the U.S., France or England; countries with better media production and visual effects that produce political campaigns that are just as shallow, or more.

Slogan: My heart has a moustache or Moustache lives in me. (Free translation)

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