TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduran lawmakers are due to decide on Dec. 2 whether to reinstate ousted President Manuel Zelaya and let him finish his term until a newly elected leader takes office in January.
Zelaya was exiled by soldiers in a June 28 coup but has been holed up in the Brazilian Embassy since sneaking back into Honduras in September. After he pulled out of a deal to decide his return, Zelaya’s future looks even more uncertain.
Here are some possible scenarios for Zelaya’s prospects:
Zelaya’s opponents control the Honduran Congress, which voted to strip him of his powers on the day of the coup, but they could reinstate him to secure international recognition of the Nov. 29 presidential election.
Even if he is brought back, Zelaya’s Latin American allies may still reject the election result because the vote is being organized by Roberto Micheletti’s de facto government.
Human rights groups accuse the de facto authorities of abuses and say free and fair elections are impossible after a pro-Zelaya TV station was shut down last week.
Zelaya said he will not agree to return as part of any deal because to do so would legitimize the coup and the presidential election that he has branded illegal.
The United States has suggested it will recognize the president who takes office on Jan. 27, with or without Zelaya’s return to power.
Micheletti said Congress is respecting the terms of the U.S-led agreement even though lawmakers pledged to take up the contentious issue only after the presidential ballot.
Congress might feel justified in rejecting Zelaya’s reinstatement, especially because of the U.S. stance.
Zelaya is calling for an election boycott, but protests supporting him have dwindled in size because of Micheletti’s crackdowns and a population tiring of the conflict.
Micheletti said he plans to step aside for the week of the election but declared a state of emergency on Monday in a move he says will help facilitate the election process.
If security forces spark violence on election day, Latin American and European governments may be less willing to recognize the vote and Honduras would stay isolated from aid.
Some lenders and countries might wait and eventually decide to recognize the next president to end the diplomatic limbo.
The leaders of the coup insist Zelaya must face trial for violating the constitution and want Brazil to turn him over to Honduran authorities or grant him political asylum abroad.
Accepting asylum would effectively end Zelaya’s career in Honduran politics and some analysts say he would be reluctant to abandon his ambitions and homeland even if staying would be no guarantee of political success.
Zelaya’s decision to return to Honduras in September suggests he is determined to stay on the political stage despite Micheletti’s efforts to sideline him.
Zelaya would likely be arrested if he left the Brazilian Embassy and be put on trial for pushing constitutional reforms critics saw as an illegal attempt to extend his term limits.
He denies the charge, claiming his goal was a more participatory constitution. He might welcome a direct challenge to make a high-profile public defense of his reform drive, grabbing the spotlight again to rebuild his political base.
Zelaya cannot run for a second term as president, but he could try to groom a political heir or set out to take control of the fractured Liberal Party.
Although Zelaya, a wealthy rancher, does not hail from the traditional left, his ouster has galvanized Honduran social movements representing the poor majority, so he might seek to form a new party to capitalize on anger over the coup.
Additional reporting by Mica Rosenberg, Editing by Stacey Joyce