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Liberals and Libres in Honduras: Powerless

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There are few things worse than irrelevance, particularly in politics, and especially so in governance. This is what is facing the Liberal, Libre, and PAC parties in Honduras. Okay, President Juan Orlando Hernández and his National Party effectively own the Executive branch of government. With 48 of the 128 seats in the Congress, and the three main opposition parties -- Libre, Liberal, and PAC -- splitting most of the remaining seats between them (36, 27, and 13 respectively), the Nationalists also pretty much own the Legislative branch. The President of the Congress, Mauricio Oliva? Nationalist. With these two branches in your pocket, the third one, the Judicial (with its 15 Supreme Court justices), is a slam dunk.

So it's no wonder that the leaders of the Liberals, Libres, and PACs -- Mauricio Villeda, Manuel Zelaya, and Salvador Nasralla -- are looking for ways to have their parties begin to work together to form a strong voting block to prevent continually being railroaded by President Hernández and his party. Mr. Villeda recently spoke to a gathering of the mayors in Comayagua and tried to sell Liberal and Libre mayors on the idea of a unified front. Meanwhile, rumors have been floating about Mr. Zelaya offering former Liberal presidential candidate Elvin Santos the Libre-Liberal candidacy for the next presidential election in 2017... as if it even existed, or as if it were Mr. Zelaya's to offer in the first place.

Mr. Nasralla is apparently also somewhere in the mix backing some sort of unity deal. He acknowledged earlier this week that "at this moment, what is needed is an alliance that could fight against the authoritarian manner in which the current government is acting."

All of this seemingly desperate activity to bring together the Liberals, the Libres, and the PACs is creating concern and some chaos within the parties, because it highlights the degree of desperation there must be. After all, the differences in the political philosophy and culture of each party are not insignificant. The Liberals are liberal. The Libres are socialist, plus cultishly pro Manuel Zelaya and his family. And the PACs are... well, some vague concoction of anti-corruptionism topped off with a cult of Nasralla. Add to this the fact that no one much likes or respects each other across party lines.

In the best of circumstances, it would be a huge challenge to get Liberals, Libres, and PACs to collaborate in a manner befitting mature, intelligent adults. As it stands, the circumstances are not good because the three parties are having to confront not only a thoroughly unified National Party but also an unusually strong, smart, and determined guy as President. Say what you will about Mr. Hernández, he is a master politician who knows how to bend the rules (an awful lot sometimes) of the game in his favor, or simply change them altogether in midstream. He's not at all shy about getting his way.

Mr. Hernández holds all the cards at the moment, and it's unlikely he is going to give them up anytime soon. The other players at the table -- Mr. Villeda, Mr. Zelaya, and Mr. Nasralla? They're still trying to agree on who'll get to shuffle the deck next.