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Hondurans Vote for New President, Hoping to Leave Political Chaos Behind

BY Larisa Epatko  November 29, 2009 at 10:30 PM EST

Honduran presidential candidate Porfirio Lobo. Photo: Yuri Cortez/AFP/Getty Images

Hondurans voted for their next president Sunday, with exit polls showing a sizable lead for the opposition party. In addition to a change in party leadership, many voters expressed the need to put the country’s political troubles behind them.

The next president, who will take the oath of office on Jan. 27, will be tasked with repairing the country’s political wounds. Current President Manuel Zelaya was removed from office by gunpoint in June. His opponents say he was trying to change the constitution to extend presidential term limits, an accusation which he denies. An interim government led by Roberto Micheletti then took charge.

Zelaya secretly re-entered the country in September and has taken refuge in the Brazilian Embassy in the country’s capital Tegucigalpa. On Wednesday, the Honduran Congress is scheduled to vote on whether he will be reinstated until the next president’s inauguration on Jan. 27.

In addition to showing support for the country’s two main parties, the Liberals and Nationals, the recent political turmoil appeared to motivate voters to show up at the polls, reported Marcelo Ballve of New America Media, who is in Honduras covering the elections for the NewsHour.

“Some of them said that they thought that this election was particularly important for Honduras to put the sort of chaotic months that they’ve had since June 28 behind them,” Ballve said. “They really wanted to see the country put this behind them.”

With official election results still coming, various exit polls showed opposition candidate Porfirio “Pepe” Lobo of the National Party, with a sizable lead over next contender Elvin Santos of the Liberal Party, of which Zelaya and Micheletti are members.

Lobo is viewed as the “law and order” candidate and a change to the government that has been in charge for the past four years, noted Ballve.

Hear more of his report here.

Editor’s Note: Watch for Ballve’s broadcast report from Tegucigalpa on Monday.