November 30, 2017

Election crisis engulfs Honduras

Three days after polling stations closed in Honduras’ presidential election, there’s still no winner declared becasue vote counting has been delayed.

Honduras is facing a growing election crisis, with its US-friendly president edging ahead in troubled vote count that his centrist rival, a television game show host allied with leftists, has rejected, saying he is being robbed.

Three days after polling stations closed in Honduras’ presidential election, there was growing international concern with no clear winner and both men claiming victory, despite nearly a fifth of ballots remaining uncounted.

Stricken with poverty, drug gangs and one of the world’s highest murder rates, Honduras is one of the United States’ closest military and ideological allies in Central America.

On Wednesday, the US State Department urged a quick conclusion to the vote count, which has been widely criticised.

Resolution to the festering crisis had appeared possible on Wednesday when both candidates vowed to respect the final result once disputed votes had been scrutinised, issuing identical signed statements brokered by the Organization of American States (OAS).

But the accord did not last long.

Centrist opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla – who had watched with disbelief as his original five-point lead evaporated, allowing centre-right President Juan Orlando Hernandez to edge ahead by 3,000 votes – told reporters that he rejected the document he had signed just a few hours before.

Nasralla cited an hours-long technical glitch at the election tribunal, and fears that Hernandez was planning to unilaterally declare himself victorious, as his reasons for dismissing the results of the electoral body.

“They take us for idiots and want to steal our victory,” said Nasralla, who heads a coalition of leftist and centrist parties. “The document I signed today with the OAS has no validity,” he added, calling it a “trap” and pledging to take to the streets to defend his votes.

The OAS said in a tweet that it regretted Nasralla had withdrawn from the pact, and that it would continue working for “justice” in the elections.

Later on Wednesday, police fired tear gas to disperse Nasralla supporters gathered outside the election tribunal where the vote was being counted. The fumes entered the building, prompting its staff to be evacuated, television images showed.

With around 82.89 per cent of ballots counted, the centre-right Hernandez had 42.2 per cent of the vote, while Nasralla was on 42.1 per cent, the tribunal said. Hernandez’s National Party appears set to retain control of Congress.

International observers said the delays were damaging the credibility of authorities and threatened to undermine the legitimacy of the next president.