Honduran cattle rancher Porfirio Lobo apparently won the presidency of the Central American country that is trying to overcome a five-month political crisis and rebuild its economy, according to exit polls and preliminary results released by television and radio stations.
Lobo, a member of the National Party, had 55% of the votes, Radio America reported, citing results from about a quarter of polling stations. Tegucigalpa-based television station Channel 11 said Lobo, who campaigned on a pledge to attract foreign investment, may have 53% of the vote.
Honduras voted amid relative calm for a president to replace ousted Manuel Zelaya, who was deposed by the military in June after the Supreme Court ruled his bid to change the constitution was illegal.
However Brazil, Argentina, Uruguay, Paraguay and Venezuela among other Latinamerican countries have said they won’t recognize the result arguing that Mr. Zelaya must be reinstated before, as had originally been agreed by the international community.
But since then Costa Rica, Panama, Colombia, Peru and the US said they may recognize the results as legitimate if the voting was transparent and fair.
Another factor that will be crucial for the legitimacy or not of the elections will be the final turn out of voters, since ousted Zelaya has called to boycott the ballot.
Lobo, 61, will need international backing to mend Honduras’s economy, which was deprived by as much as 200 million USD in lost investment since Zelaya’s overthrow, according to Jesus Canahuati, vice president of the Business Council of Latin America in Honduras.
The country also lost more than 200 USD million in frozen international aid and loans which are crucial for the third poorest country of Latinamerica and the Caribbean together with Haiti and Nicaragua. Almost half its national budget is financed with foreign grants.
Zelaya, said the election was a “fraud” after calling for a boycott. Congress will vote December 2 on whether to allow him to return to office and finish his term before Lobo takes over Jan. 27.
Honduras has suffered five months of occasional curfews and sometimes violent clashes between Zelaya supporters and backers of de facto ruler Roberto Micheletti. At least four people have been killed in fighting between authorities and protesters since Zelaya’s ouster, according to Human Rights Watch.
Congress named Micheletti president June 28 after soldiers removed Zelaya at gunpoint and sent him into exile to Costa Rica.
Zelaya, whose removal was condemned by the United Nations and the Organization of American States, has been living in the Brazilian Embassy in Tegucigalpa since September, when he sneaked back into Honduras, hiding in the trunk of a car.
In late October an agreement sponsored by the OAS and Washington was agreed between delegates from Zelaya and Micheletti, basically to reinstate the deposed leader following a vote in Congress based on a constitutional interpretation of events by the Supreme Court. Furthermore a national unity and reconciliation government had to be named while the agreement was made effective.
But since the November election is also to renew the one house Congress, most members were campaigning and will only be meeting on December 2. Besides the unity and reconciliation transition committee (to replace Micheletti) was never named given different interpretations of the agreement.
If finally Mr. Zelaya is reinstated he will be in office until the end of January when the newly elected is scheduled to be sworn in.