A preliminary ballot count in Honduras’ disputed presidential race yesterday pointed to a second term for incumbent Juan Orlando Hernandez, while his opponent accused the government of stealing the election and called for protests.
US-backed Hernandez had 42.98% of the vote, compared with opposition challenger Salvador Nasralla’s 41.39%, based on 99.96% of ballots tallied after a partial recount of more than 1,000 polling stations.
David Matamoros, who heads the electoral tribunal and is a member of Hernandez’s party, refused to declare a winner.
Parties can still file legal challenges, and a wider recount is possible, he told reporters.
Early last week, Nasralla, a former sportscaster and game show host, appeared set for an upset victory over Hernandez, gaining a five-point lead with more than half of the ballots tallied.
The counting process suddenly halted for more than a day and began leaning in favour of Hernandez after resuming.
Opposition leaders said on Sunday they wanted a recount of all the polling stations that were entered into the system after the delay.
Protesters flooded streets across the country on Sunday to decry what they called a dictatorship.
As night fell, the sounds of plastic horns, honking cars, fireworks and beaten saucepans echoed over the Tegucigalpa capital, challenging a military curfew imposed to clamp down on protests that have spread since last week.
Nasralla, addressing a giant rally in the capital earlier in the day, told the armed forces not to enforce the curfew and encouraged supporters to walk out on a national strike starting yesterday.
“I call on all members of the armed forces to rebel against your bosses,” Nasralla told a cheering throng of supporters who booed nearby troops. “You all over there, you shouldn’t be there; you should be part of the people.”
TV images showed similar protests in other major cities.
While there were no reports of violence on Sunday, hundreds have been arrested and at least three people were killed in recent days.
The government imposed a military-enforced curfew on Friday that expanded powers for the army and police to detain people and break up blockades of roads, bridges and public buildings.
The tribunal began the partial recount on Sunday.
The Organisation of American States said Nasralla’s demands to recount more than 5,000 polling stations were doable, and it urged the tribunal to make further checks.
Also on Sunday, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro accused the US of backing vote fraud in Honduras, while the top official at the US embassy praised the peaceful protests and the “orderly” final count then under way.
Honduras struggles with violent drug gangs, one of world’s highest murder rates and endemic poverty, driving a tide of its people to migrate to the US.
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