TEGUCIGALPA — Honduran election officials revised down Friday the participation rate in controversial weekend elections from more than 60 percent to 49 percent.
Conservative Porfirio Lobo claimed a solid victory in Sunday's polls for a successor to ousted President Manuel Zelaya.
De facto leaders hoped the elections would turn a page on the June 28 coup.
The United States and the European Union hailed the vote as a first step forward out of the five-month crisis, but the elections have split the Americas, with Brazil leading claims that they would whitewash the coup.
The Washington-based Organization of American States (OAS), which suspended Honduras after the coup but has been divided over the crisis, held an emergency meeting Friday on the election, with its chief Jose Miguel Insulza warning a consensus was unlikely.
The Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) posted figures of 49 percent participation after two thirds of votes were counted, down from 62 percent initially given on Sunday.
The tribunal has 30 days to provide final results for the general elections in which 4.6 million Hondurans were eligible to vote.
The impoverished Central American nation remains in limbo, with interim leader Roberto Micheletti in charge, while Zelaya remains holed up in the Brazilian embassy ever since returning in September and facing threat of arrest.
The 128-member Congress voted 111-14 on Wednesday against bringing Zelaya back to the presidency until his term runs out on January 27, despite pressure from the international community to make a gesture against the coup.
The Latin American Parliament, a regional group, sanctioned the Honduran Congress by voting to suspend it on Friday, lawmakers said after a meeting in Panama.
Zelaya supporters, who confronted a heavy-handed military crackdown while attempting to protest the coup, agreed late Thursday to give up their campaign to demand his reinstatement, but said they would still fight for his plan to change the constitution.
The military packed left-leaning Zelaya on a plane to Costa Rica in June with the blessing of Congress, the Supreme Court and business leaders over his plans to alter the constitution, which they saw as a bid to remove the current one-term limit for presidents.
Zelaya now appears left with the options of either negotiating his release with Lobo, seeking exile or remaining in the embassy.
The cowboy-hatted deposed leader beat Lobo by a small margin in 2005 elections, which saw 55 percent participation.
Secretary General Insulza warned at the start of the OAS Permanent Council's meeting that the body was divided on the Honduran elections, adding that "recognizing a government as legitimate" was a decision each OAS member state must make freely.
The OAS "cannot give a definitive verdict on this election, which we did not observe and was held in special circumstances," he added.
Insulza said neither Sunday's election not Wednesday's vote by Congress -- which he blasted as a repeat of coup-like politicking -- "have helped to solve the democracy crisis in Honduras."
The upcoming Lobo administration should work for "national reconciliation," he said, calling on the president-elect to end Zelaya's persecution and distance himself from the coup leaders.
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