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No end in sight for Honduran election row

Dec. 2, 2009 at 9:02 PM   |   Comments

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras, Dec. 2 (UPI) -- Bickering over the aftermath of Honduran presidential elections blighted the political scene Wednesday as opponents of President-elect Porfirio Lobo declared they would not accept his election as legitimate.

Reaction to Sunday's election was marked initially by civilities. The runner-up, Liberal party candidate Elvin Santos, a former vice president who resigned to run for the office, accepted Lobo's win and de facto President Roberto Micheletti announced he was ready to hand over power.

However, incumbent President Jose Manuel Zelaya, whom Micheletti ousted and exiled in June, only to find him spirited back into the country in September, remained defiant and opposed to the poll results. Zelaya and his supporters have challenged the results as well as voter turnout figures from the Electoral Tribunal.

Analysts said Zelaya and his supporters still commanded a following and were being strengthened by international skepticism over the way the election took pace.

Through summer and early autumn, negotiators from the Obama administration, the Organization of American States and independent mediators sought to fulfill a technicality central to the dispute. They wanted Zelaya to be reinstated for the duration of the election campaign, the election and the transition from Micheletti's regime to a president-elect.

Micheletti and his aides refused to budge, however, and Zelaya remains holed up in the Brazilian Embassy, where he took refugee after sneaking back into the country from exile.

Micheletti apparently was reluctant to let Zelaya back into the presidency because of his past performance, when he attempted to hold a referendum on the Constitution in a bid to prolong his presidential term. It was this alleged attempt to stay longer in office that proved his downfall, and following Supreme Court orders Zelaya was escorted out of Honduras at gunpoint.

Analysts said an early end to the crisis would require Zelaya to give up his fight, leave the Brazilian Embassy and submit himself to any decision the new president or Congress may take to decide his fate.

Lobo has vowed to form a government of unity and reconciliation that, analysts said, offers Zelaya the best exit strategy. At the height of the crisis, Micheletti threatened to put Zelaya on trial for abuse of power.

Some clarity may emerge when the Honduran Congress convenes this week. Aside from local critics, the election has drawn the strongest rhetoric from Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, who branded the election a farce.

Lobo reacted to the criticism, declaring, "Nobody should dare get involved in Honduran affairs; Chavez, or anybody."

He said, "We are a free, independent and sovereign country; we do not accept impositions or political compromises that divide us."

Lobo said Honduras would seek to re-establish normal relations with all countries. The ouster of Zelaya caused widespread consternation in the West, leading to aid cuts and diplomatic sanctions by the Obama administration and suspension of European aid.

© 2009 United Press International, Inc. All Rights Reserved. Any reproduction, republication, redistribution and/or modification of any UPI content is expressly prohibited without UPI's prior written consent.
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