International community split over elections in Honduras | Americas| North and South American news impacting on Europe | DW | 28.11.2009
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International community split over elections in Honduras

Honduras will elect a new president on Sunday, five months after President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a military coup. The international community is at odds over whether to recognize a new leader.

Porfiro Lobo on the campaign trail in Honduras

Campaign front-runner, Porfirio Lobo, lost to Manuel Zelaya in Honduras' 2005 election

When the Honduran army stormed into the presidential palace, kidnapped President Manuel Zelaya at gunpoint and deposited him abroad, it seemed a throwback to a bygone era, when military coups were all too common in Central America.

After two decades of democratic rule in the region, Zelaya was abruptly replaced by fellow Liberal Party member Roberto Micheletti, who has thwarted all attempts supported by the US, other Latin American countries and Europe to reinstate the president.

Now, as some 4.6 million Hondurans prepare to vote in the presidential election, which was scheduled prior to the June 28th coup and for which neither Zelaya nor Micheletti is a candidate, the international community remains divided over whether to recognize a new leader if Zelaya is not first restored to power.

However, on Wednesday, Honduras' Supreme Court ruled his reinstatement unconstitutional.

US support for election

The US is one of the few countries that has expressed support for Sunday's election, causing friction with Zelaya and other Latin American leaders who say it would be a victory for those who carried out the coup.

"The U.S. position…has divided the Americas and is creating a grave precedent," Zelaya told Reuters news agency.

Marco Aurelio Garcia, a foreign policy advisor to Brazilian President Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva, has warned the US that it could sour its relations with most of Latin America if it recognizes the Honduras election.

Honduras' ousted President Manuel Zelaya, right, reads a letter he wrote to US President Barack Obama as his wife Xiomara Castro de Zelaya looks on

Ousted President Zelaya reads a letter he wrote to US President Barack Obama

However, the Obama administration has defended its position, arguing that it is a necessary means to end the political crisis.

"We see the running of these elections - assuming that they're run in a fair and transparent way - we see them as an essential part of the solution of this crisis," US State Department spokesman Ian Kelly said this week.

The ousted president is currently hiding out in the Brazilian embassy in Tegucigalpa, the capital, after sneaking back into the country from Costa Rica in September.

During his term, Zelaya had been accused of trying to change the constitution in order to stay in power - a charge he denies.

Interim leader Roberto Micheletti agreed last week to hand power over to his cabinet from November 25th in an effort to increase the election's legitimacy.

Looking ahead

Security is one of the main concerns ahead of Sunday's election, as many people fear the situation could become violent.

There's quite a lot of apprehension in the population about what might happen up until the election, Javier Zuniga of Amnesty International told Deutsche Welle from Honduras.

"People have been killed, people have been injured, people have been put in prison, people have been prosecuted," Zuniga said, referring to the post-coup fallout.

Honduran army soldiers stands in guard at the presidential residency in Tegucigalpa

Soldiers seized the national palace and sent Zelaya into exile in Costa Rica

The fairness of the election has also been called into question after Micheletti temporarily shut down pro-Zelaya news channels.

Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo of the conservative opposition National Party is the leading candidate going into the election. He and his main opponent, Elvin Santos of the Liberal Party, have both tried to avoid mentioning the crisis in their campaigns.

Germany, along with other members of the European Union, refuses to recognize Honduras' interim government and has reduced its aid to the deeply impoverished country. So far the EU, which is one of the major international donors of the country, has not publicly said whether or not it would recognize the election's outcome.

Honduras also was criticized by the Organization of American States (OAS), which suspended its membership, and along with the UN, has refused to send election monitors.

Even if the election goes ahead as planned without any major incidents it still is unclear how the UN, the OAS and the EU will deal with the winner of Sunday's vote.

Author: Vanessa Johnston

Editor: Michael Knigge

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