A Libre-Liberal-PAC Alliance in Honduras: How Would That Actually Work?

Less than a month ago, members of the Executive Central Council of the Liberal Party (CCEPL) dismissed the idea of an alliance with the socialist Libre Party. Victor Cubas noted that an alliance was not possible, given that Libre is made up of radical groups who subscribe to an ideology that is inconsistent with liberal thinking. "I see it as impossible. The Nationalists are not in power because they want it so, but rather because we allowed it. Personally, I would not support [an alliance with Libre] because Libre is made up of social sectors that are violent, sick, and resentful... "

That's pretty strong language. "Violent, sick, and resentful"? What's more, this view of the people who belong to Libre is not uncommon among Liberals, and certainly not among the conservative Nationalists. The prevailing image of Libre among Liberals and Nationalists, and even among many members of Salvador Nasralla's PAC, is consistent with Mr. Cubas' description.

That is precisely why the Liberal Party, up to now, has preferred to have nothing to do with Libre, even if it has meant generally going along with the Nationalists. The problem is that this cooperation has so empowered President Juan Orlando Hernández and his party that the Liberals are starting to have second thoughts, to the point where the CCEPL has become open to exploring an arrangement with Libre, as well as the PAC, to create a united opposition within Congress in order to block Nationalist-sponsored legislation and policy initiatives.

It's a simple idea, really. Between the Libre, Liberal, and PAC representatives in Congress, these three parties control a total of 76 seats -- far more than the 48 controlled by the Nationalists, and more than enough to come up with the 65 votes needed for majority decisions.

So that's mostly what all the fuss about creating an alliance between Libres, Liberals, and PACs is about -- establishing enough discipline among these non-Nationalist diputados so that they can function as an effective opposition to President Hernández and the president of the Congress, Mauricio Oliva -- a kind of immovable phalanx. According to Manuel Zelaya, who heads Libre, "We need to unite the opposition in order to check this government which is abusing its power."

No one is talking about a formal "electoral alliance" in which the three parties would jointly nominate political candidates for the next general elections in 2017. That's probably not going to happen, which means that the Nationalists will likely win the Presidency for the third straight time and hold on to at least one-third of the seats in Congress.

It is primarily about blocking whatever the Nationalists want to do, and thereby minimizing the growth of their power and the impact of their policies. But it's still unclear how this would work in real life. For instance, what would happen in situations where there was a Nationalist proposal that Liberal diputados thought was a great idea but Libre and PAC diputados strongly opposed? How would it work if the Nationalists offered a bill that Libres sought to block with a proposal of their own that Liberals and PACs happened to think was a bad move?

Here's a good example. The Hernández administration has been seeking to procure Tucano light attack aircraft from Brazil and a new presidential jet aircraft. On May 21, Mr. Zelaya stood in Congress to propose a plebiscite to ascertain the public's opinion on the buy. The proposal was submitted to a special committee to study it and provide a response. Last month, the committee determined Mr. Zelaya's proposal to be too expensive. It noted that, according to estimates by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE), such a plebiscite would cost Lps 580 million (US $27.6 million).

Mr. Zelaya's plebiscite was roundly voted down in Congress. Many who opposed the measure were members of the Liberal Party and PAC, including Liberals Marco Antonio Andino and Ángel Darío Banegas, and Jaime Villegas of the PAC.

It is entirely possible that those who opposed the plebiscite may have also opposed the procurement of the aircraft. Under the envisioned united opposition, would Mr. Andino, Mr. Banegas, and Mr. Villegas have been required to vote in favor of Mr. Zelaya's proposal even though they thought it was a bad idea... simply for the purpose of blocking a Nationalist one? In other words, are the Libre, Liberal,and PAC members of Congress going to have to leave their thinking caps at the door whenever it comes time to vote, and be required to blindly tote their new alliance's line for the sake of maintaining a united front?

How exactly would that work, and how would it always be good for Honduras?