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De facto leader Micheletti to briefly step down during elections

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2009-11-20

In an apparent bid to boost the legitimacy of the Nov. 29 election, Hondura’s de facto leader Roberto Micheletti announced Thursday that he would step down and hand over government to his cabinet during the elections.

AFP - Honduras' de facto leader Roberto Micheletti said Thursday that he planned to step down briefly over November 29 elections in an apparent bid to boost their international legitimacy.
   
The de facto leadership hopes the polls will put an end to a deep crisis set off by the June 28 ouster of President Manuel Zelaya, which has isolated the Central American nation.
   
Micheletti said he expected to be absent from public functions from November 25 to December 2, in an address on national media.
   
"With this measure I aim to concentrate all the attention of Honduran people on the electoral process and not on the political crisis," Micheletti said.
   
Zelaya, in comments to Venezuela's Telesur TV channel, immediately rejected the move as a "crude maneuver" that implicitly recognizes that Micheletti's presence in office "stains the electoral process."
   
Micheletti did not name a replacement but said that the government would function normally during his absence.
   
Amid high tension in the polarized nation, Micheletti added that if the security situation degenerated, he would immediately return to the de facto leadership.
   
Zelaya, who is still taking refuge in the Brazilian embassy after returning home secretly in September, vowed Thursday to legally contest the elections.
   
He also called for them to be postponed, after the Congress announced that it would not consider whether he should be allowed to return to office, as part of a US-brokered crisis deal, until three days after the elections.
   
"As president of Honduras, I declare that in these conditions I will not support this process and I'll contest it legally," Zelaya said.
   
"The elections have to be postponed in order to make them legitimate," the former rancher added later.
   
Neither of the two rivals are standing in the elections, which will see a successor chosen to Zelaya, to take over on January 27.
   
The United States, the country's main military and economic backer, and Panama have said they will support the polls, but regional powerhouses Brazil and Argentina have said they will not recognize the results unless Zelaya is reinstated beforehand.
   
As tensions rose, with soldiers deploying across the country and Zelaya calling for his supporters to boycott the polls, Micheletti earlier called on the ousted president to avoid provoking bloodshed.
   
"I ask (Zelaya) with all my heart to try to avoid a single drop of blood being spilled," said Micheletti.
   
The Honduran Congress and Supreme Court, business leaders and the military all backed Zelaya's ouster, accusing him of seeking to change the constitution to stay in office beyond the one-term limit.

Date created : 2009-11-20

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