Sunday, July 12, 2009

Zelaya and the fourth ballot

There are so many unusual aspects of the Honduran political crisis. After seeing an interview with Mel Zelaya on the Costa Rican paper La Nación, another one occurred to me. This is what Zelaya had to say when asked about re-election and his proposed vote:

This is false. In Honduras there is no re-election and there is no possibility of re-electing me. I raised the possibility of a fourth ballot so that the people could give their opinion of development, taxes, tax reform, budgets, and international treaties.

I am trying to think of another situation where a president was ousted in part for proposing reforms, and then no one can even agree on what specific reforms he was proposing. The fact that Zelaya has denied the re-election argument multiple times (including prior to the coup) also means it can never be proved.

I would love, though, to see how the opposition framed their case if it ever went to court. The main argument seems to be "Zelaya wanted re-election. The proof is that many people think so."


Gabriel 4:10 PM  

I think it's pretty clear what Zelaya wanted, among other reasons because all these other reforms he's now talking about could have easily been proposed through other channels, that did not require him resorting to mob rule to get his way.

But while this has political importance, it doesn't have much legal relevance, right? Once the courts spoke Zelaya should have obeyed. Period.

Presidents don't get to choose what rulings they follow or not.

RAJ 4:10 PM  

That's what makes the document released by the Supreme Court so interesting. There are no legal precedents cited, no evidence is actually presented.

The only argument that could be seen as about a point of law is the claim that because some of the articles of the constitution state that no future efforts can be made to change them, any action that would open debate about the constitution as a whole would necessarily be illegal because it could not exempt these articles.

I think one of the reasons that the debate has been kept so tightly to intentions about the presidential succession limits may be what else is at stake in the constitution itself. It actually embeds some really concrete economic relations, and I see the potential of changing those as far more threatening to the current power structure.

But I continue to think the over-reaction was less about the prospects of changing the constitution at all-- since to get there even from a majority yes on June 28, an unlikely event itself, would have required considerable political will in Congress.

So what do raw polling numbers do to power politics? They make patent when there is more or less support for government or a policy.

Even a minority vote Yes would have been interpretable as a vote of no confidence in the current order. If even 30% of Hondurans voted yes, that would be a sign of a mass popular block, a potential base from which to build a third political party that might actually have come to challenge the two existing parties.

Unless I subscribe to the personalization of this conflict (which I find extremely unhelpful as a form of social analysis), I can find no other way to frame stakes sufficiently significant to warrant what happened.

Doug 4:11 PM  

Greg -
I am amazed that in the whole 2 hour hearing in the House Friday, although the phrase "Article 239" was brought up ad nauseum, NOONE bothered to bring up the fact that, No, It has never been shown that he ,in fact, broke it; in comparison to Article 102, which was most definitely broken by the Military.

Greg Weeks 4:16 PM  

Is the text of that hearing available yet? I planned to take a look, though in general I expected a rehash of what has been reported in the media.

Gabriel 4:33 PM  


What do you mean, "no evidence presented"? I have the document in front of me and it goes over how the Courts kept telling him no, and he kept ignoring them. That's called breaking the law.

Look at point 10:

"declarando ilegal la pretension de
llevar a cabo una encuesta de opinion a realizarse fuera del marco de la legalidad estableclda en la Constituci6n de la Republica, cuya responsabilidad es facultad
exclusiva del Tribunal Supremo Electoral. "

It doesn't get any clearer than that. There are rules in Honduras for any plebiscite and Zelaya broke them.

Which brings us to the original issue. Why did Zelaya insist on breaking the law when he easily could have proposed constitutional changes through perfectly legal means? Why did he insist on having his people run the plebiscite instead of the legitimate authorities (Tribunal Electoral)?

I think it's pretty clear.

Doug 5:23 PM  

Greg -

I just emailed it to you; I had it in my phone as a complete text. If it doesn't format, I think I got it from or Cspan. The hearing itself is on cspan, beware of the Lanny Davis part, I couldn't take him last year in the primaries, and less now..

Greg Weeks 5:53 PM  

Thanks, though especially for a blog I will need to find the link.

Doug 5:54 PM  

Greg -

I did find the link (It was tucked in at

Adrienne's recap of the hearing is also quite great..

leftside 3:21 PM  

Why did Zelaya insist on breaking the law when he easily could have proposed constitutional changes through perfectly legal means?

Zelaya WAS going to change the Constitution through legal means. There is simply no other way. The only argument is whether holding a non-binding poll PRIOR to the real serious legal efforts is grounds for removal from office... again I refer you to the Law of Citizen Participation, Article 5, if anyone still has questions on that.

Why did he insist on having his people run the plebiscite instead of the legitimate authorities (Tribunal Electoral)?

By HIS people, I guess you mean the Statistics Institute and volunteers? He did this because the Court forbid the Tribunal Electoral authorities from working on the poll. They also seemed to forbid State expenditures, so he got "his" people who were willing to help distribute the ballot boxes for free.

although the phrase "Article 239" was brought up ad nauseum

Wow. The hired guns have really done their job to get that Article on everyone's lips. Too bad, again, the Courts NEVER actually mentioned this article, let alone accused the President of violating it.

Gabriel is still under the impression the Courts were just doing their job interpreting the law. In fact, it should be clear to anyone who has read the document, that this was a farce designed to permit a coup. The courts invented law, they ignored the law, they side-stepped the law, they made vague accusations without findings of fact or proof, they spouted loads of legal mumbo jumbo without saying how that applies in this case. This is exactly the type of case that international courts were meant for.

Allen Fuller,  4:02 PM  

Zelaya may not have come right out and said directly that he himself wanted to be re-elected, but there is video of him saying that re-election is the goal, or one of the goals, of the National Constituent Assembly.

Go to to see it. At about 5:14, in a speech to his supporters, he unleashes a stream of insults against his opponents in pretty much the entire rest of the government. At 5:28, he says this: "El único que no se reelige en Honduras, es el Presidente. Pero la reelección es tema de la próxima Asamblea Nacional Constituyente."

"The only one [public official] who is not re-elected in Honduras, is the President. But re-election is [a/the] subject of the next National Constituent Assembly.

His comments were also reported in various media, including and

That's probably the closest thing to a smoking gun that we'll find, short of him directly saying he wants to be re-elected. Remember, it's illegal to even promote this under the current constitution, so Zelaya's comments above are already bordering on, if not outright, illegal.

Anonymous,  10:21 PM  

I find it ridiiculous to support Zelaya's criminal actions - or the criminal way the ouster was handled(perhaps for "security" reasons as any jail would have been stormed to rubble)
Did any of you see 45 "Diebold" machines with the never cast vote from the "poll"(that's a joke when printed ballots were flown in from Chavez' government) were found on the p[residential grounds with the RESULTS showing Zelaya "won overwhelmingly" ?
How about the other information at the Wall Street Journal how Zelaya's people stormed the AG's office wielding MACHETE's a month or two ago, and some other insane life threatening actions of the recent past.
This president was on an illegal roll, and he and his cabal were going to roll over the whole rest of the government.
If BUSH was caught with pre-determined win DIEBOLD machines in his WhiteHouse or Cheney's cave, had FIRED a military commander who wouldn't ILLEGALLY distribute ballots he had printed up by Tony Blair, then stormed an Air Force base to abscond with the illegal product to go ahead and have a VOTE - would ANY of you claimed leftists or fair people support him ?
What if the Supreme Court declared him a felon, and Congress had IMPEACHED and voted to remove (the EQUIVALENT has happened in Honduras) - would any of you be supporting Bush ?
What if the military flew him out and dumped him in Europe - would you people be screaming for his return to the Presidency ?
Perhaps you'd draw the line at removal from the USA, but that of course is VERY QUESTIONABLE, more likely you'd CHEER and totally support it- demanding the HAIGE immediately start a war crimes trial for execution.
So what we have here is a whole lot of lefty "fluff" that doesn't pass the smell test.
I forgot to mention the millions his people stole before the ILLEGAL removal from the nation (expatriation is illegal) - he should have been imprisoned according to the law - and the MILITARY does it down there- legally - they cannot pay for police and military both-too expensive.
I will say it is unfortunate that this left wing for the people president took it way overboard and went rampaging with his mob - he did in fact BLOW IT.
If he hadn't gone on a raging ballot flown in storm the air force base, machete threaten the Attourney General - etc - he would have been FINE. Garbage bags full of cash in Zelaya's offices
45 diebold machines with Zelaya lies pre programmed
The Congressional head there cites article 239 !
I'm sorry, it is sad for the left - but admitting the fella was a criminal on a rampage and got caught is more in tune with reality - even though the ouster was handled illegally by removing him from the nation of Honduras.
Neither side is innocent, but Zelaya is to blame for what happened to him in a very, very large way.

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