Sunday, November 22, 2009

A Lame Duck Wannabe

One week remains until scheduled elections in Honduras take place. With Honduran President Zelaya still taking refuge in the Brazilian embassy, the Supreme Court, Congress and the de facto government seem happy to act in accordance to the U.S. State Department's policy that the United States will recognize the November 29 elections if they are conducted appropriately. In other words, the U.S. doesn't mind if Zelaya is reinstated before then or not. Therefore, Congress and the Supreme Court can take their time (the newly elected leader will take office the 27th of January) in deciding the legitimacy of the coup, whether Zelaya should be reinstated, etc. Naturally, Zelaya is calling for either a boycott of the election or for its postponement (or he will legally contest it) until after a reinstatement decision by Congress scheduled for December 2nd, only days following the election.

This comes after the poorly-crafted U.S.-backed Tegucigalppa-San Jose Accord with the de facto government that was supposed to restore power to Zelaya broke down because it failed to include a deadline for restoration of power. Clearly, the State Department's position that elections will be recognized as long as Zelaya is restored in a "timely way" incentivizes the de facto leadership to not rush in Zelayas reinstatement and control the elections which many argue legitimizes the coup. Indeed, the de facto government has already begun stationing military units around the country and has already taken control at least one television station - Channel 36 is now broadcasting cowboy movies and pornography.

Meanwhile, a number of other countries including Spain, Brazil and Argentina have stated they will not acknowledge the upcoming elections if Zelaya is not restored to power (which doesn't help U.S.-Brazilian diplomatic efforts). These conditions are likely to result in electoral violence and a distorted result at the very least as some voters may scared to vote, many of Zelaya's supporters claim they will boycott the election, and several candidates have even withdrawn. Despite its past failures in Honduras, the State Department should move forward and take concrete steps to help carry out safe, free and fair elections in order to legitimize the future Honduran government. The U.S. needs to recognize that despite how many times it says the Honduras situations needs to be solved by the Hondurans, the U.S. has inserted itself if in it and Honduras needs support and assistance. Without international recognition, clear results and a safe voting environment, the election could continue the current political holding pattern, which unquestionably hurts the Honduran people both economically and socially.

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