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Before voting begins, Honduras elections are dismissed by critics

While unemployment and crime are high and schools are at a standstill, Hondurans' focus when they go to the polls Sunday will be on settling a crippling political crisis that has consumed the Central American country since June.

Whoever wins the presidency inherits a political mess not of his making and will be forced to cut deals and heal wounds — or risk four years of instability and international condemnation.

But even as the campaigns officially close Tuesday, critics both in Honduras and abroad are condemning the election and promising legal challenges. The question remains: If Honduras has an election few countries recognize, does it count?

"If we don't go to elections, what alternative do we have?" said leading candidate Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo.

"This has been a very, very difficult process," he told reporters. "Now they want to deny us this right? There's no way. Nobody is going to stop the people's right to vote."

Lobo is a 61-year-old former rancher and president of Congress who is widely expected to win the election. A longtime politician of the traditional National Party, he ran for president in 2005 and lost.

But this time around, CID Gallup polls show Lobo 15 points ahead of his closest contender, construction company executive Elvin Santos.

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