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HONDURAS
Did elections legitimize coup?
Gilda Silvestrucci
12/3/2009
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Region divided over vote; conservative Porfirio Lobo wins election.

Juana González does not trust candidates´ promises and did not vote in Honduras´ contested Nov. 29 presidential elections, like nearly 40 percent of the electorate, according to the electoral authorities.

Ten people live in González´s house — four adults and six children — and like 200,000 other families in the capital, Tegucigalpa, they lack basic services such as safe drinking water and electricity. She says she opposes the coup that removed President Manuel Zelaya from office June 28, but has little faith that the vote, which took place amid the fifth month of political turmoil, will improve her life. Instead of going to vote, González went to mass.

Zelaya had been physically removed from his bed, still in his pajamas, by soldiers, and deported to Costa Rica.

Then-president of Congress, Roberto Micheletti, took his place, and backers of the act refuse to call it a coup.

Despite strong international pressure to return Zelaya to office to serve out the end of his term, which technically ends Jan. 27, Micheletti refused. For many, the presidential elections, which were scheduled before Zelaya´s ouster, only served to legitimize the coup.

According to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, 61 percent of the electorate participated in the vote, or 2.8 million voters.

Porfirio Lobo Sosa, candidate of the right-wing National Party, won easily with 854,200 votes with 70 percent of the ballots counted, the electoral board said. His main opposition, Elvin Santos, Zelaya´s former vice president of the Liberal Party, won close to 584,600 votes. Three other candidates won just 2 percent of the valid votes between them.

“Democracy didn´t win here,” said Zelaya, who has been holed up in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa since he returned to Honduras on Sept. 21.

Country, region divided
But in spite of his electoral victory, Lobo lacks popular support, and Zelaya supporters are eager for those responsible for the coup to be brought to justice.

“I am unveiling a government of national unity, of reconciliation,” said Lobo after the results were announced. Lobo, like Micheletti, never said a coup had been committed. “There´s no time for divisions. Let´s move forward, everyone together for Honduras”

For political analysts such as Efraín Díaz Arrivillaga, one of Lobo´s first challenges will be to defuse the current political crisis.

This looked more difficult on Dec. 2, when Honduran lawmakers voted down a measure to reinstate Zelaya to serve out the rest of his term.

Nations that had previously refused to recognize the caretaker government after the coup, such as the United States and Costa Rica, which lead the first negotiations following Zelaya´s ouster, said the elections were valid, along with Colombia, Mexico, Panama and Peru.

But Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Venezuela said they will not recognize the vote because they were held by an illegitimate government.

Varying figures
While the Supreme Electoral Tribunal said there was 61 percent participation, the National Front against the Coup said 63 percent abstained from the vote.

The group accused the electoral board of doctoring the figures since the first results were supposed to be released at 7 p.m., but were released, instead, at 11 p.m., which the board blamed on technical problems.

“It´s evident that the technical problem reported by the Tribunal was caused intentionally to increase the voter turnout numbers,” said lawmaker and member of the resistance group Tomás Andino.

“We don´t believe that with such few people who went to the polling centers that there were close to 3 million votes, as the Tribunal is trying to tell us,” he said. “What they´re doing is try not to declare the process a failure.”

He estimated that voter turnout was, at most, 35 percent.

Andino said that the election is an opportunity for citizens who oppose the coup to forge a political movement over the next four years, to break the Honduras´ historical bipartisan political landscape.
—Latinamerica Press.


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