Sunday, November 27, 2005

Hondurans to elect new president

Voters in Honduras are preparing to elect a new president, with both leading candidates pledging to crack down on gang violence.
Porfirio Lobo of the governing National Party is facing Manuel Zelaya of the Liberals, with polls showing the two right-wingers are neck and neck.
Honduras suffers from crime, poverty, and unemployment of about 30%.
Sunday's vote is the seventh presidential election since 1981, when civilian rule was restored.
Mr Zelaya, 53, is a civil engineer and rancher who has previously served as investment minister.
Mr Lobo, 57, is a former communist who has pledged to introduce the death penalty for crimes such as sexual assault, kidnapping and murder.
Three other candidates are contesting the election, but are not expected to draw widespread support.
Gang-related crime is a key priority for both candidates.
Porfirio Lobo worked alongside current President Ricardo Madura to introduce penal code reform that has criminalised gang membership.
But there has been little let-up in the violence, with at least 45,000 gang members estimated to be operating inside Honduras.
The gangs grew out of Los Angeles and have become a fixture of life in Honduras. The most notorious group, the Mara Salvatrucha, is blamed for a bus massacre that killed 28 people in late 2004.
Election campaigning ended several days ago, but supporters of both candidates paraded through the capital, Tegucigalpa, on Saturday, in an effort to drum up support.
Cars decked out in the rival candidates' colours drove through the streets, Reuters news agency reported.
An estimated four million registered Honduran voters will also elect 298 mayors and 128 deputies to the single-chamber Congress.
Polls open at 0600 (1200 GMT) and close at 1700 (2300 GMT). Initial results are expected a few hours later.
Story from BBC NEWS: 2005/11/27 10:57:04 GMT© BBC MMV


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