San José, Costa Rica, since 1956

Honduras’ President Asks Would-be Successors to Await Vote Count

TEGUCIGALPA (EFE) – HonduranPresident Ricardo Maduro met Mondaywith the two men vying to succeed him toask them to remain calm and await the officialtabulation of the ballots from theweekend elections.Maduro’s office said in a statement thatthe chief executive held separate talks atthe presidential palace with the candidatefrom his own National Party, PorfirioLobo, and that of the main oppositionLiberal Party, Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, whohas already proclaimed himself the winnerof Sunday’s vote.According to the statement, Madurotold both candidates to “maintain and fostercalm, tranquility and order, both withintheir parties and among the general population,while official results of the votingare determined.”The reason for these messages,Maduro said, was the confusion caused bythe Supreme Electoral Tribunal’s delay inreleasing data that officially determineswho won the elections.”The statement added, “The unofficialresult, disseminated by the media, isextremely close, with a very small marginof votes separating the National Partyand the Liberal Party in presidential voting.”Earlier Monday, Zelaya announcedsteps to smooth his transition intooffice.The 53-year-old Zelaya, who hadpolled behind Lobo heading into the election,said at a press conference that he hadnamed running-mate Elvín Santos andcampaign manager Hugo Noe Pino to headhis transition team and pledged to engagein dialogue with key national sectors andthe international community.THE Supreme Electoral Tribunal, orTSE, released figures late Sunday showingthat Zelaya garnered 50.79% of the vote to45.22% for main rival Lobo, with the ballotsfrom 151 of the country’s 5,312precincts counted.Lobo, 57, has not conceded and urgedHondurans to wait for the final results.For his part, the deputy chairman of theNational Party, Gilberto Goldstein, saidat a press conference Monday that theparty did not recognize Zelaya as thewinner given that just a small percentageof the vote had been officially tabulated.TSE officials said the release of preliminaryresults was delayed about fivehours due to “technical difficulties.”Zelaya claimed victory as soon as resultsof an exit poll projecting him the winnerwith a six-point margin were released.DESPITE the small percentage of ballotscounted, the head of the TSE weighedin on Zelaya’s side.“We have a very clear result,” TSE chiefAristides Mejía told reporters, adding that“we Hondurans have a president-elect.”Mejía, also a member of the LiberalParty, said the vote count would continueMonday, but he did not provide any detailson what delayed the count initially.The TSE chairman estimated thatdefinitive results would be ready withintwo weeks, attributing the delay to technicalproblems that forced ballots in the legislativeelections to be manually counted.He said the final results of the presidential,congressional and mayoral elections mustbe declared jointly.ZELAYA, meanwhile, said workcommittees in different sectors had begunto be set up to smooth the transition, andsaid he planned to travel on Tuesday toneighboring El Salvador at the invitationof that country’s President, Tony Saca.Hondurans voted Sunday for a newPresident, Vice-President, 128 legislatorsand 298 mayors in general elections thatmarked 25 years of democracy in theCentral American nation.The main issue in the campaignbetween Zelaya and Lobo – a pair ofwealthy farming barons who agree oneconomic policy and maintainingclose ties with the United States – waswhat to do about soaring crime (NT,Nov. 25).While Lobo wants to institute thedeath penalty, Zelaya opposes such ameasure.THE elections were also tainted bytragedy this week. In an accident apparentlyunrelated to election emotions, abus full of Zelaya supporters crashed inthe north of the country on Monday,killing at least 21 people on board.

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