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The people of Honduras went to the polls this week in strong numbers to elect a new president. In so doing, they also took an important step to return their nation to democratic and constitutional order upset by the June 28 coup that deposed President Manuel Zelaya.
Porfirio Lobo, a rancher and National Party politician who was narrowly defeated by Mr. Zelaya in the last election, prevailed with both a large margin over the Liberal Party's Elvin Santos and a majority of the vote in balloting that was generally fair and transparent. Despite complaints in some quarters that holding the election without President Zelaya's restoration would legitimize the coup that ousted him, the candidates were chosen last November in a primary that the Organization of American States judged free and fair.
The new government will take office in January, but much needs to be done before then to end Honduras’ protracted political crisis. The election was an important step forward, but not the only one needed to restore legitimacy and constitutional rule.
Honduran political leaders must commit themselves to reconciliation now and form a national unity government to rule the nation until the new president takes office. The important mending of fences must not be put off or public services and the nation's economy will continue to suffer.
Congress must also fulfill the pledge made in the Tegucigalpa-San Jose Accord signed in October, and vote on whether to restore President Zelaya and allow him to complete his democratically elected term. Finally, an independent commission should be convened to look into what happened before, during, and after the coup, address grievances where they are found and consider reforms that will prevent similar incidents from ever happening again.
The United States looks forward to continuing to work with all Hondurans and encourages others in the Americas to follow the Honduran people's lead in helping advance national reconciliation there, in their interests and those of all in the hemisphere.