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Honduran party primaries herald return of Zelayas to country's politics

Three Honduran political parties chose their candidates for next year's general elections in primary voting Sunday that heralded the return of ousted former President Manuel Zelaya to politics in this Central American country.

Zelaya's wife, Xiomara Castro, is running uncontested as the presidential candidate in 2013 for the leftist Liberty and Refoundation party, or Libre, while the ousted president is seeking to be a congressional candidate.

The National and Liberal parties, which have long dominated Honduran politics, fielded multiple candidates.

Late Sunday, Honduras' Supreme Electoral Tribunal said preliminary results showed Mauricio Villeda ahead as presidential candidate for the Liberal Party while the National Party was favoring Juan Orlando Hernandez.

It was unclear when the official final results would be announced.

A mission of 40 Organization of American States observers said the voting process had been "normal."

Supporters of Libre, which was formed after the 2009 coup d'etat that toppled Zelaya, hope it will break the lock on power held by the Liberal and National parties.

"Libre will break the bi-party system," said Zelaya on the eve of the primaries. "Libre is a peaceful, revolutionary, socialist and the hope for this country."

Honduras' army flew Zelaya out of the country after he went forward with plans for a referendum on changing the constitution even though the Supreme Court ruled the vote illegal. The coup was widely condemned by other nations.

Zelaya returned from exile in May 2011 under a deal brokered by Colombia and Venezuela, paving the way for Honduras' reintegration into the world community.

Sunday's voting was to choose candidates for the presidency and vice presidency, and open seats in the Central American Parliament, National Congress, and municipal councils.