Remarkably, Honduras  has the oldest two-party system in the western hemisphere (after the United States and Uruguay). Apart from brief interludes of military rule, presidents from either the Liberal or National Party have governed the country since the beginning of the 20th century. Even during the dictatorship of the Partido Nacional’s Tiburcio Carías (1932–1948), the Partido Liberal continued to participate (meekly) in the political system. Not that this means Honduras is any paragon of democracy. Rather, it points to the fact that both parties are cut from the same cloth and have managed to institutionalize a system permitting them to alternate turns skimming off a healthy slice of Honduras’s national wealth. Venal though Honduran politics may be, the system has at least provided a surprising degree of social peace in the desperately poor and underdeveloped country.
Since 1982, with the passage of its 16th constitution, Honduras  has simultaneously elected a president, three vice presidents, and the 128-member unicameral Congreso Nacional (National Congress) every four years. During the last election, some 1.8 million Hondurans were registered to vote, about 46 percent of eligible voters. Honduran elections are a very peaceable affair, with violence and open vote fraud almost unheard of.
The president, who cannot be reelected, is by far the most powerful figure in the country. In theory, the Congress has wide authority; in practice, almost all policy initiatives come from the executive office. Until 1998, Congress was always controlled by the president’s party and generally acted as a rubber stamp. However, under election rules in place since 1998, voters now vote for separate parties for different posts. Thus far, congressional independence has improved judged in terms of the noise factor, but not as much in terms of actual policy design control.
Honduras  is divided into 18 departments (departamentos): Atlántida, Choluteca, Colón, Comayagua, Copán, Cortés, El Paraíso, Francisco Morazán, Gracias a Dios, Intibucá, Islas de la Bahía, La Paz, Lempira, Ocotepeque, Olancho, Santa Bárbara, Valle, and Yoro. Each has a governor who is appointed and removed at the discretion of the president.
Every four years, the country’s 297 municipal governments hold elections for alcalde (mayor) and municipal council on the same day as the national elections. Until the 1993 elections, local officials were on the same ballot as national ones, but now voters may split the ticket between different parties. Rural municipios are further divided into aldeas (villages) and caseríos (hamlets).