November 30, 2009
Right-wing rancher Porfirio Lobo wins Honduras election
Porfirio Lobo, a right wing businessman from the Honduras political old guard is on course to win the country's first election since the June 28 coup that ousted President Manuel Zelaya.
Early exit polls indicate that Mr Lobo, a wealthy rancher, has won 55 percent of the votes, according to Radio America which cited results from about a quarter of polling stations. Neither Mr Zelaya or his rival, interim President Roberto Micheletti stood for election.
Voting was held in relative calm, although human rights groups reported an atmosphere of intimidation and fear in the lead up to the election, held to appoint a replacement for Mr Zelaya who had been escorted out of the country at gunpoint.
However security forces in the northern city of San Pedro Sula fired tear gas and water cannon at hundreds of Zelaya supporters as they protested against the polls. Journalists and activists at the scene reported some arrests and injuries.
The vote has caused a split across the Americas with the United States, Peru, Panama and Costa Rica suggesting they would support the polls if voting was fair and Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and other left-wing governments in the region refusing to recognise the result.
Mr Zelaya, whose removal was condemned by the United Nations and the Organisation of American States, has been holed up in the Brazilian embassy since sneaking back into the country in September in the boot of a car. He had called for Hondurans to boycott the election, and called the results a "fraud”.
In an interview with the Telesur television network, he pledged to fight until “toppling the dictatorship.”
His ally, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, denounced the vote as an "electoral farce."
Mr Lobo, known to his supporters as “Pepe,” is a National Party leader who lost to Mr Zelaya in the 2005 elections. This time around he campaigned on pledges to protect investors, cut crime and use government resources to train Hondurans for factory jobs.
“Don’t be afraid,” he told investors in a recent speech. “I’ll guarantee your investments, but with dignified wages for my people. We have to expand investment all throughout the country."
His main rival, Elvin Santos from the Liberal Party, who was Mr Zelaya's former vice president, was estimated to have around 34 percent of the vote.
Congress will vote on December 2 on whether to allow Mr Zelaya to return to office and finish his term before Mr Lobo takes over on January 27. It was as yet unclear who would hand over power to the new president.
Heather Berkman, a political risk analyst at the Eurasia Group in New York told Bloomberg: “The average Honduran doesn’t care one way or the other about the coup, it was a battle of political elites.
“They do care however about the economic crisis and the damage that has done,” she added.