Honduras conservative presidential candidate Porfirio Lobo declared Monday he won Sunday’s elections while his main contender accepted defeat and de facto president Roberto Micheletti announced he was ready to hand power and step down.
Lobo thanked his Liberal party rival Elvin Santos for acknowledging defeat and promised to head a government of “unity and reconciliation”, five months after the bloodless coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya triggering a political crisis that even questions the legitimacy of Sunday’s ballot.
“We will head a government of national unity, of reconciliation, there’s no more time for divisions”, said Lobo in his victory speech following the announcement of the Honduran Electoral Tribunal (TSE) that he had garnered 55.9% when the vote-count had reached 61.89% of cast ballots.
TSE said that 61.3% of Honduran registered voters had turned out, but Zelaya, holed in at the Brazilian embassy, and his followers argue no more than 30/35% did so.
In the previous election, November 2004, Zelaya (Liberal party) defeated Lobo (National party) 49.8% to 46.1% with a 55.6% turnout.
Lobo promised to call a “national dialogue” to agree on a “program for the nation” and everybody will be invited, “nobody will be left out” he said in what was interpreted as an invitation for ousted Zelaya to participate.
Elvin Santos who was Zelaya’s vice-president until 2008, when he resigned to become the presidential hopeful for the Liberal Party, admitted defeat and congratulated Lobo.
“Today the people have shown us the way: in a free and sovereign election, Hondurans have elected Porfirio Lobo as their next president: we only have to submit to that verdict and we will do so peacefully and naturally”, said Santos.
“To the president elect we are telling him: you can count with us”, he added.
De facto president Micheletti who has taken a break from politics “not to influence elections” said he is ready to hand over power to the winner of Sunday’s elections, with no conditions involved.
“The transition government will complete its duties handing over the administration, no strings tied, to the president elected by the majority of us citizens”, he said.
Micheletti praised Hondurans “for having challenged, as has this government, international pressure, fear spread by radical groups, intimidation by the enemies of the people and all the hatred they promoted to impede the full exercise in freedom of the sovereign right to vote and to be ruled by our legal system”.
However the international community remains divided over the legitimacy of the electoral results since the election was held without having reinstated Zelaya to office. The issue is to be considered this week by the Honduran Congress.
But in spite of the international position the five presidential candidates that participated in the elections underlined the significance of Sunday’s ballot as a way out for the political crisis that has left one of Latinamerica’s poorest countries with a paralyzed economy and as an outcast.
Venezuela’s president Hugo Chavez described Sunday’s elections as a “farce”, but Lobo reacted saying that “nobody should dare get involved in Honduran affairs; Chavez, or anybody”.
“We are a free, independent and sovereign country; we do not accept impositions or political compromises that divide us”, added Lobo.
“We want to re-establish normal relations with all countries. We want to be respected, as we respect them. In Sunday’s elections there are no winners or looser, only democracy has triumphed”, said Lobo. “We can’t park in the past, the most important is to look ahead to the future and avoid all that further divides us”.