Porfirio Lobo “Wins” “Peaceful” Honduran Election, According to Exit Polls
Lobo Wins Peaceful Honduran Election, Exit Polls Show (Update3)
By Eric Sabo and Helen Murphy
Nov. 29 (Bloomberg) — Honduran cattle rancher Porfirio Lobo won the presidency as the Central American nation seeks 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 percent 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 percent of the vote.
Honduras voted amid relative calm for a president to replace Manuel Zelaya, who was deposed by the military in June after the Supreme Court ruled his bid to change the constitution was illegal. Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela have said they won’t recognize the result, while Costa Rica, Panama and the U.S. said they may if the voting was transparent and fair.
“Lobo is going to need a lot of support,” said Michael Shifter, vice president of the Inter-American Dialogue, a Washington-based research group. “No matter how committed and talented he is as a president-elect, he’s going to need support of sectors in Honduras and of the international community.”
Lobo, 61, will need international backing to mend Honduras’s economy, which was hobbled by as much as $200 million 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 million in frozen international aid and loans.
Zelaya, an ally of Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, said the election was a “fraud” after calling for a boycott. Congress will vote Dec. 2 on whether to allow him to return to office and finish his term before Lobo takes over Jan. 27.
Zelaya pledged to fight until “toppling the dictatorship,” in an interview tonight with Telesur television network.
Official results from the electoral tribunal weren’t yet available on its Web site.
Known to his supporters as “Pepe,” Lobo was a youth leader in the National Party before earning a business degree at the University of Miami. Lobo has said he wants to offer “clear rules for investment,” and has pledged to propose a law to protect investors, cut crime and use government resources to train Hondurans for factory jobs.
‘Don’t be Afraid’
“Don’t be afraid,” Lobo told investors in an Oct. 19 speech. “I’ll guarantee your investments, but with dignified wages for my people. We have to expand investment all throughout the country.
Voting today was mostly calm, with few incidents of violence, said national police spokesman Danilo Orellano.
Aguada Aurualla, 74, a retired school teacher, said she cast her ballot for “democracy” and wasn’t fearful of protests.
“I’ve voted all my life, I’m not stopping now,” she said as two armed soldiers stood watch at a polling station in Colonia Miraflores, a hilly suburb in Tegucigalpa.
Honduras has suffered five months of occasional curfews and sometimes violent clashes between Zelaya supporters and backers of acting President Roberto Micheletti. At least four people have been killed in fighting between authorities and protesters since Zelaya’s ouster, according to Human Rights Watch.
“Some really nasty characters that overthrew a legitimate president are getting away with it,” said Kevin Casas-Zamora, Senior Latin America Fellow at Brookings Institution. Still, “the key relationship that Honduras has to nurture and protect is with the U.S. As long as the U.S. is on board, they’re fine.”
The U.S. shift toward backing the election will create a “domino” effect in the region, with other countries slowly accepting the ballot, said Casas-Zamora.
“These elections ought to be seen as the vehicle for getting through this political impasse,” said Peter DeShazo, Director of the Americas Program at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. “The political solution helps pave the way to a better economic environment.”
Congress named Micheletti president June 28 after soldiers removed Zelaya at gunpoint and sent him into exile.
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 snuck into Honduras, sometimes hiding in the trunk of a car.
“The average Honduran doesn’t care one way or the other about the coup, it was a battle of political elites,” said Heather Berkman, a political risk analyst at the Eurasia Group in New York. “They do care however about the economic crisis and the damage that has done.”