30 Nov 2009

Lobo wins Honduras presidential election

10:50 pm on 30 November 2009

Conservative opposition candidate Porfirio Lobo has won Honduras' presidential election in a vote that has put the United States at odds with leftist governments in Latin America.

The election comes five months after a military coup ousted President Manuel Zelaya and plunged the central American country into a major political crisis.

Mr Lobo, a rich landowner, had more than 55% support with more than half the votes counted and his closest rival, Elvin Santos of the ruling Liberal Party, then conceded defeat.

Washington looks likely to recognise the result but leftist rulers of Brazil, Argentina and Venezuela and other Latin American countries say the election is invalid because it was backed by the coup leaders.

They say it could end any hope of Mr Zelaya returning to power.

The division puts in danger US President Barack Obama's attempts to turn a new page with Latin America, where memories of US-backed military coups during the Cold War are still fresh.

As the partial election results were announced, about 300 supporters of Mr Lobo's National Party waved flags and danced in a victory celebration at a hotel in the capital.

Mr Lobo is seen as more able than Mr Santos to lead Honduras out of political gridlock and diplomatic isolation.

But Mr Zelaya says the election is illegitimate and has accused police of repressing his supporters.

"[Mr Lobo] is going to be a very weak leader without recognition from the people and most countries," Mr Zelaya said.

Neither Mr Zelaya nor his arch-rival Roberto Micheletti, installed as interim president by Congress after Mr Zelaya's overthrow, took part in the race.