Honduran opposition candidate Porfirio Lobo won Sunday's presidential election with over 55 percent of the vote according to partial results. The election could calm a political crisis triggered by an army coup last June.
REUTERS - Conservative opposition candidate Porfirio Lobo easily won Honduras’ presidential election on Sunday in a vote that has put the United States at odds with leftist governments in Latin America.
Lobo, a rich landowner, had over 55 percent support with more than half the votes counted and his closest rival, Elvin Santos of the ruling Liberal Party, then conceded defeat.
The election could calm a five-month crisis which was sparked when the Honduran army overthrew leftist President Manuel Zelaya in June and flew him into exile.
But while Washington commended Sunday’s vote, leftist rulers of Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela and other Latin American countries say the election is invalid because it was backed by the coup leaders and could end any hope of Zelaya returning to power.
The division puts in danger U.S. President Barack Obama’s attempts to turn a new
page with Latin America where memories of military coups supported by the United States during the Cold War are still fresh.
State Department spokesman Ian Kelly called the election “a necessary and important step forward” but did not say whether Washington would explicitly recognize Lobo.
As the partial election results were announced after long delays that officials put down to technical problems, hundreds of supporters of Lobo’s National Party waved flags and danced in a victory celebration at a hotel in the capital.
Lobo, 61, is seen as more able than Santos to lead Honduras out of political gridlock and diplomatic isolation.
“Today Honduras has decided its own future to end once and for all the crisis that has affected us and damaged the most needy,” he said in a victory speech.
But Zelaya said the election was illegitimate and that the election winner would not be a true president.
“He is going to be a very weak leader without recognition from the people and most countries,” Zelaya told Reuters.
Soldiers grabbed Zelaya from his home on June 28 and threw him out of the country, sparking Central America’s biggest political crisis since the end of the Cold War.
Neither Zelaya nor his arch-rival Roberto Micheletti, installed as interim president by Congress after Zelaya’s overthrow, took part in the race.
Lobo vowed on Sunday to end Honduras’ isolation from countries like Brazil and international organizations such as the Organization of American States, or OAS, which have frozen Honduras out in retaliation for the coup.
But Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva again condemned the election, saying that failure to oppose it could encourage other “adventurers” to stage coups in Latin America.
“If the countries that can ... make gestures do not do so, we do not know where else there could be a coup,” Lula said in Portgual on Sunday. His government is increasingly flexing its muscles as Latin America’s emerging power and has been disappointed by Washington’s response to the Honduras crisis.
Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, the leader of a socialist bloc in Latin America and a close ally of Zelaya, said the vote was “an electoral farce.”
The election, which was scheduled before the coup, took place mostly peacefully despite a spate of home-made bomb explosions in recent days and police firing tear gas at pro-Zelaya protesters in the city of San Pedro Sula.
Despite Zelaya’s call for a boycott, large numbers of people formed lines at ballot stations. The electoral tribunal said voter turnout was 61 percent, more than the previous election in 2005.
The OAS and United Nations refused to send observers to the election.
Zelaya had upset Congress and the Supreme Court by forging an alliance with Chavez and hinting that the wanted to change the constitution to allow presidential re-election.
Zelaya, who became easily recognizable in the world’s media in recent months with his white cowboy hat and bushy mustache, has been camped out in the Brazilian embassy since September when he slipped back into Honduras from exile. The embassy is surrounded by troops and police with orders to arrest Zelaya if he leaves.
Date created : 2009-11-30