Honduran elections pass important test

The people of Honduras made it clear on Sunday that they fully supported the electoral process that produced a presidential victory for Porfirio Lobo, the candidate of the opposition National Party.

The turnout of more than 60 percent signals that most Hondurans were unwilling to heed the call of ousted president Manuel Zelaya, who had called for a boycott of the process to strengthen his claim that the elections were not legitimate because he was improperly removed from power back in June.

In fact, the elections easily passed the most important test of all in any democracy by attracting popular support. That, along with an absence of reported irregularities at the polls and a generally peaceful atmosphere around the country, helps to make the case that the results of the election should be respected by other countries, even though Mr. Zelaya himself remains holed up in the Brazilian Embassy in an increasingly futile effort to win back his old job.

He has succeeded to the extent that Honduras has been something of an international pariah for the last few months, its de facto government recognized by few and its diplomatic and trade relations disrupted. It may well be that Hondurans are tired of all this and willing to overlook the bungled removal of Mr. Zelaya because they just want to get their country back to normal.

Yet it cannot be argued that the election was held under duress or that the outcome was manipulated. The interim government, which has the support of virtually all the major factions of Honduran society, including the major political parties, can now claim that it presided over a fair and credible election.

That’s not the end of it, though. It’s up to the interim government and Mr. Lobo to help restore democracy by creating a unity government between now and the inauguration in January, with a place in it for Mr. Zelaya. Failing to do so will only give other countries in the region an excuse to keep Honduras in isolation. No one profits from that except Hugo Chávez of Venezuela and others like him who are the real enemies of democracy in the region.

Meanwhile, the Obama administration needs to get its act together in Latin America. Its handling of the controversy left much to be desired.

This is not the way to win either friends or credibility in the region.