Honduran Elections: A Coup or a Show of Democracy?

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Conservative commentators cheered Monday morning as Honduras looked poised to elect a new, conservative president, Porfirio Lobo Jr. Five months ago, the military ousted left-leaning President Manuel Zelaya. Conservative pundits in the United States say the elections are a victory for democracy and a blow to Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez. Some simply seem eager to put the political crisis behind them, including the United States, who tried and failed to have Zelaya reinstated. But others say the elections are illegitimate. They worry that recognizing their outcome will condone military coups on the continent. Are the Honduran elections a show of democracy or a continuation of the military coup?

  • Honduras Defeats Chavez  At The Wall Street Journal, Mary O'Grady says the elections are a strike for democracy. "If not Hugo Chávez's Waterloo, Honduras's stand at least marks a major setback for the Venezuelan strongman's expansionist agenda." She says Obama made the right decision on the crisis in the end. "At least the Obama administration figured out, after four months, that it had blundered. It deserves credit for realizing that elections were the best way forward, and for promising to recognize the outcome despite enormous pressure from Brazil and Venezuela. President Obama came to office intent on a foreign policy of multilateralism. Perhaps this experience will teach him that freedom does indeed have enemies."
  • Victory For Democracy  At Gateway Pundit, Jim Hoff calls the elections "a huge victory for democracy and a huge embarrassment for the former leftist President Manuel Zelaya and the Obama White House." 
  • "An Old-Fashioned Coup"  In his Letter From Honduras, The New Yorker's William Finnegan describes a country in the midst of a 1980s-style military coup. From the abstract:
wo hundred soldiers stormed the Presidential palace. President Zelaya was taken to a military airfield and put on a plane to Costa Rica. The legislature quickly named the coup leader, Roberto Micheletti Bain, the new President. Zelaya had managed to alienate the legislature, including much of his own party; the country’s businessmen; the Catholic Church hierarchy; and the Army and the police. Honduras is often said to be controlled by ten families. To the extent that that was true, almost all them had come to loathe Zelaya. A lot of Hondurans, however, were appalled by the coup, and the streets and highways soon filled with them. The Army and the police met them with tanks and tear gas, clubs and rubber bullets, and, in some cases, live ammunition.
  • Latin America Knows a Coup When It Sees One  Ginger Thompson of The New York Times reports that the majority of countries in Latin America fear that recognizing the Honduran elections is tantamount to supporting a military coup. "The question now is whether his administration’s support for the presidential election being held there on Sunday will be seen as a stamp of approval for a coup or, as senior administration members maintain, the beginning of the end of the crisis," Thompson writes. "Most countries in the region see it as the former. Haunted by ghosts of authoritarian governments not long in the grave, countries like Brazil, Argentina and Chile have argued that an election held by an illegal government is, by definition, illegal."
  • It's Zelaya Who Poses a Threat to Democracy  At Hot Air, Jimmy Bise Jr. thinks Ginger Thompson is dead wrong. Bise says the interim government — or leaders of the coup — did what they had to do to protect Honduran democracy from Manuel Zelaya.
Zelaya did not merely defy the Supreme Court; he openly violated the Honduran constitution which is crystal clear on the matter of Presidents serving more than one term and on the penalty for anyone who even attempts to change that provision. Both the Supreme Court (which unanimous decision included members of Zelaya’s own party) and the Honduran legislature decided to remove Zelaya, even though they did not need to do so. Their actions were found appropriate by the Law Library of Congress.
  • The Elections Aren't Fair, Free, or Legitimate  At The Huffington Post, Dana Frank describes the context in which the elections are taking place. "Human rights abuses are rampant, freedom of speech is under attack, and the election process is in the hands of the very people who perpetrated the coup," she writes. "Clearly, no free and fair election is possible under the repressive thumb of the military coup that has been in place for five months."

This article is from the archive of our partner The Wire.