Lobo Takes Questioned Honduras Vote
By Thelma Mejía
HAVANA TIMES, Nov. 30 (IPS) – Porfirio Lobo, the presidential candidate of the right-wing National Party, won the elections Sunday in Honduras that were backed by the de facto government in power since the Jun. 28 coup that overthrew President Manuel Zelaya.
According to the preliminary results posted by the Supreme Electoral Court, Lobo took 56 percent of the vote, compared to 38 percent for his closest rival, Elvín Santos of the governing centre-right Liberal Party. Honduran politics have been dominated by the National and Liberal parties for the past century.
A number of Latin American countries, including Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela, stated ahead of the elections that they would not recognise the results, as no agreement was reached in talks between Zelaya and the de facto regime of Roberto Micheletti, to overcome the political crisis.
But right-wing Colombian President Álvaro Uribe congratulated Lobo on his triumph, and Panama and Peru also indicated that they would accept the vote.
Washington praised the elections, which despite the continued tension over the political crisis took place in relative calm, with the presence of around 300 international observers and more than 350 foreign correspondents. But the Barack Obama administration called again for continued negotiations, in order to set up a unity government until the president-elect is sworn in on Jan. 27.
After his victory was announced, Lobo promised to hold talks with the aim of establishing a coalition government.
Voting was calm Sunday. However, the police cracked down harshly on a protest held by supporters of Zelaya in the northern city of San Pedro Sula, and dozens of people were injured and around 30 arrested, according to the National Resistance Front Against the Coup d’Etat and the Committee of Detained-Disappeared in Honduras.
On Wednesday, Congress is to vote on whether or not Zelaya – who has been holed up in the Brazilian embassy since sneaking back into the country in late September – should be returned to office to serve out the last few weeks of his term.
The president of the Supreme Electoral Court (TSE), Saúl Escobar, said the voter turnout of over 61 percent was “one of the highest rates in the last decade.”
He also said the TSE is open to national or international scrutiny, “if anyone has any doubts about the elections, which have been marked by transparency and by the triumph of democracy in Honduras.”
Conceding defeat, Santos said “we are at the doors of a new stage for the country, and we must put the nation’s interests before our own personal interests.” He urged his party’s supporters to join “this democratic fiesta that Honduras is experiencing, because today democracy has won, and our party will be the object of reforms.”
Santos heads the party that put Zelaya, a timber tycoon, in the presidency, but which turned on him when he made a shift to the left and attempted to usher in mild reforms like a raise in the minimum wage.
Lobo, a conservative rancher who like Zelaya is from the northeastern province of Olancho, said “I want to look towards the future, not get caught up in quarrels from the past.”
The president-elect told IPS that the talks would require a “governance pact,” and added that Zelaya himself “will be included, and, if I have to knock on the doors of the international community and donors to get them to recognise this legitimate and massive triumph by my people, have no doubts that I will do so.”
He said several governments had already called to congratulate him and announce that they would recognise his victory and the elections, “because no one can deny that they were legitimate and transparent, and that turnout was high.
“I want to tell you that I am seeking unity for my people, and I want to tell the people who make up the so-called resistance (to the coup) that we are all Hondurans, and that above and beyond our ideological differences, I invite them to engage in a process of reconciliation of the Honduran family,” said Lobo.
The president-elect once had leftist leanings, studying for six months in the Soviet Union in the 1980s. He was also involved in social movements, as the founder of the first non-governmental human rights body, along with current ombudsman Ramón Custodio.
His past gave rise to some wariness in the most conservative faction of the National Party, the country’s most right-wing party. But a smiling Lobo told IPS that “those prejudices have disappeared, because we are a humanistic centrist party that seeks to strengthen its participation in favor of all Hondurans.”