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Supreme Court rules out Zelaya return ahead of Sunday's key poll

Text by FRANCE 24

Latest update : 2009-11-26

The Supreme Court ruled Wednesday that ousted President Manuel Zelaya (pictured) cannot return to office; Congress will rule on his return Dec. 2. Honduras votes in a presidential poll Sunday in which neither Zelaya nor his main rival are candidates.

The Supreme Court of Honduras ruled on Wednesday that ousted President Manuel Zelaya cannot be returned to office, the latest in a series of rulings upholding his overthrow.

The court did not release the full text of its ruling, which is not binding, as Congress is set to vote Dec. 2 on whether Zelaya can be reinstated.

Zelaya was seized by soldiers in a June 28 coup backed by the Supreme Court and other groups who objected to his attempts to alter the constitution so that he could remain in power. Roberto Micheletti was sworn in as interim leader just hours after Zelaya was deposed.

Hondurans are gearing up to vote in a presidential election on Sunday in which neither Zelaya nor Micheletti are candidates. The leading hopefuls both come from the right; among the five candidates is conservative favourite Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo of the center-right National Party, who came second to Zelaya in the 2005 vote. His main rival, Elvin Santos, belongs to the Liberal Party of which both Zelaya and Micheletti are members, despite their political rivalry.

Micheletti stepped down temporarily at midnight on Tuesday in a bid to lend legitimacy to the poll, which Zelaya supporters -- including unionists, students and farm workers -- are decrying as illegitimate. Zelaya has called for a boycott of the vote, which he says will legitimise the June coup.

Hundreds of Hondurans marched on Wednesday to encourage the country’s 4.5 million voters to turn out on Sunday. “Honduras free, sovereign, independent,” chanted the demonstrators, who were organised by the pro-Micheletti Democratic Civic Union.

In the run-up to Sunday’s polls, the impoverished Latin American nation is effectively without a leader and is being led by Micheletti's cabinet, the Council of Ministers.

All eyes on Sunday’s vote

Observers both within Honduras and around the world had hoped Sunday’s poll could bring about a peaceful end to more than four months of political crisis. International donors including the United States froze aid to the impoverished country following Zelaya’s overthrow.

The United States had initially warned that the elections would not be recognised if Zelaya was not restored to office, but has recently indicated that Sunday’s vote may provide the best way out of the political standoff.

Most Latin American countries however have criticised the vote, maintaining that it will send a dangerous message that the June 28 coup was legitimate. Brazil and Argentina are leading opposition to the poll, while Panama and Peru are ready to accept the results.

“There is a critical mass of countries that are willing to consider recognising the election,” Kevin Casas-Zamora, a Brookings Institution expert on the region, told AFP. “That's all Micheletti needs.”

Casas-Zamora said accepting the vote as legitimate would serve as a “license to go back to politics as usual in Honduras as though nothing had happened”.

“This is tragic for the country,” he said.

In addition to a president, voters are set to elect three vice presidents, 128 lawmakers and 20 members of the Central American parliament as well as 298 mayors.

Polling stations will open at 2 pm on Sunday (1 pm GMT) and close at 2 am on Monday.

Date created : 2009-11-26


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