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Monday, November 28, 2005


HONDURAS ELECTION: MEDIA DECLARES LEFT-WING ZELAYA TO BE WINNER BEFORE VOTES ARE EVEN COUNTED 

Mainstream media has declared Manuel Zelaya as new Honduras president but no official votes have been released yet.


Classy: Zelaya supporters burned Porfirio Lobo Sosa in effigy, after they declared victory



Election returns in Latin America are not known for being revealed in just a matter of hours. Even the last 2 American elections have not seen a winner declared on election day. So, it is strange that the left-wing opposition candidate, Manual Zelaya, claimed the Honduras presidency just a couple of hours after the polls closed and was quickly declared by the media to be the winner. What is more interesting is that the official vote totals have yet to be announced.

Only 2 exit polls are the reason why Zelaya and the media are declaring him to be the winner. Imagine if John Kerry was declared to be the winner after last year's exit polls were released?

Reuters: A logging magnate who argued against reviving the death penalty claimed victory in Honduras' presidential election on Sunday after voters appeared to reject a hard-line approach to tackling rampant gang violence.

In what would be a surprise result, two exit polls showed opposition candidate Manuel Zelaya comfortably beating ruling party candidate Porfirio Lobo, an advocate of capital punishment who had led in opinion polls. But official results were delayed to Monday due to counting and computer problems, and Lobo refused to concede.

"People have believed in this servant of the people; the people have shown that reason has beaten force," Zelaya, 53, told local television. Clamping down on tattooed youth gang members known as "maras," who are behind a wave of beheadings, eye gougings, rapes and other violence, was the key election issue in this poor Central American nation.

Zelaya won 51 percent of votes to Lobo's 44 percent, according to an exit poll by the Televicentro TV station.

Another exit poll by Channel 11 station also made Zelaya the winner with 43 percent compared to 34 percent for Lobo, whose tough stance against the gangs had been seen as popular.

"The counting has to continue and we have a long night ahead," Lobo, who was running for the ruling National Party, told reporters. "We will only know who the winner of these elections is when we have all the information from the ballot boxes."


Curiously, no specific vote tallies have been released. Yet the media is willing to report that a winner has been declared solely on the word of one election official.

ABC News: Opposition candidate Mel Zelaya, who vowed to reinvigorate the Honduran economy by eliminating government corruption, is the country's new president, the top election official said Monday even while ordering a recount of the previous day's vote. Aristides Mejia, president of the national election institute, did not give vote tallies for the Liberal Party's Zelaya or his opponent, ruling National Party candidate Porfirio Lobo Sosa. "Hondurans have a president-elect … and it is Zelaya," Mejia told Channel 5.
[...]
Official vote tallies were not expected until later Monday at the earliest.


Why is Aristides Mejia in such a rush to declare a winner instead of vowing to wait until all the votes are counted?

San Diego Union Tribune: Mejia said Monday he was confident those numbers "reflect with sufficient precision" the final results of the race. He urged Lobo Sosa to concede defeat. Lobo Sosa "should admit that there is a winner ... and that winner is President-elect Manuel Zelaya," Mejia told Channel 5. "It is necessary that the nation knows this situation."

Lobo Sosa did not make any immediate public comments. A woman answering the telephone at his campaign offices said no one was available to provide information. Lobo Sosa's campaign manager, Pompeyo Bonilla, did not answer his cell phone. Late Sunday, Lobo Sosa said his campaign had different results that did not show Zelaya as the clear winner. "It is a close race," he said. "The only valid result is the final result."

But Zelaya declared himself the winner and his supporters flooded the streets of the capital, waving the Liberal Party's red-and-white flag, flashing their cars' headlights and blowing horns to celebrate what they called a certain victory.


Reuters had a headline that declared "Logging magnate wins Honduras presidential vote" but the article shows that only one percent of votes have been tallied, so far.

Reuters: "We have a president-elect," Aristides Mejia, the head of the country's electoral tribunal, told Reuters. "I believe the difference is clear and conclusive," Mejia told reporters even though votes had been counted from just 1 percent of polling stations.


Why is it not good if Zelaya wins? There are several reasons but the most important being that Hugo Chavez of Venezuela is trying to spread his socialist vision, at the expense of the poor, throughout Central America. The United States has neglected Latin America and Honduras might be the least domino to fall in favor of the Castro-Chavez axis.

Stratfor: Zelaya's significant, and largely opaque, campaign fund has sparked questions about associations with Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez and Cuban leader Fidel Castro. His relationship with Nicaragua's Sandinistas and his perceived leniency toward maras have raised many questions among the Honduran population, potentially having a negative impact on FDI were he to win.


In the end, Zelaya may well be the winner of the Honduras presidential election. If that is the case, his victory should be honored. However, if it appears that the election is very close or that Porfirio Lobo Sosa is the winner then difficulties might arise as to who is the actual winner. If there is a power struggle the media would bear some responsibility because it lent credence to Zelaya's power grab. Honduras has had 6 consecutive peaceful elections and transfers of power. Let's hope that this election continues the country's positive democratic steps.

Check out the great blog, HispaniCon, for valuable information about Latin America. Bloggings by Boz has information about the election. So does Opiniones Irreverentes (in Spanish).

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