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Honduran senate vote on Zelaya fate
Debate to decide whether deposed President Manuel Zelaya should be reinstated.
Last Modified: 02 Dec 2009 18:15 GMT
Zelaya, pictured, was ousted in June after critics said he tried to illegally extend term limits [Reuters]

The Honduran Congress is set to discuss whether Manuel Zelaya, the deposed president, should be restored to office to serve out his term which ends in January.

The debate, the latest twist in the five-month crisis, kicked off on Wednesday as Porfirio Lobo, a conservative politician, celebrated his victory in Sunday's controversial presidential election, which was condemned by Zelaya.

The 128 members of Congress were to meet from 10am (14:00 GMT) to debate Zelaya's reinstatement.

They were due to consider the advice of the attorney general and the Supreme Court, which has said that criminal charges against Zelaya still stand.

Dan Hellinger, a Latin America analyst, said: "I don't see Congress ... voting any kind of amnesty or settlement with Zelaya.

"He has been made into an even more potent symbol of change, and I can't believe that the Honduran elite classes will allow him freedom to engage in political activity."

Wide divisions

Zelaya was forced into exile on 28 June after critics, including the Supreme Court, Congress and business leaders, said he acted against the constitution and tried to illegally extend term limits.

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Zelaya has repeatedly denied this and pointed out that it would have been impossible to change the constitution before his term in office was complete.

Divisions in the Central American nation remain wide after the weekend election held under the de facto regime behind Zelaya's ouster.

Lobo, who won the weekend election but was defeated by Zelaya in the 2005 election, has pledged to form a unity government and seek dialogue.

He is due to take office on January 27, when the ousted president's term ends.

The elections were hailed as a broad success, but·Zelaya's camp called for them to be cancelled and accused election officials of inflating participation figures.
 
The United States and the European Union said they saw the polls as an important first step forward.

But other nations in Latin America, including regional power Brazil, said they served to whitewash the coup.

Though endorsed by the United States, the presidential election has failed to end the political crisis in the country.

Deep split

Some see Zelaya's reinstatement as a possible way out of the impasse.

Zelaya supporters, who boycotted the polls, plan to demonstrate on Wednesday [Reuters] 
Lobo has so far refused to take a stance on Zelaya's return, saying that Congress, in which hiis party has 55 seats, must decide.

Zelaya's Liberal Party has 62, but its members are deeply split after he switched to the left under the influence of Hugo Chavez, Venezuela's president.

Smaller parties have five, four and two seats.

Lobo has promised to seek national reconciliation, but Zelaya says he will not accept any negotiations with the de facto regime.

Zelaya supporters, who boycotted the polls, have vowed to stage a protest outside the Congress on Wednesday.

Source:
Agencies
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