The Financial Express

Honduran President in lead, opposition rejects vote count

Published: December 05, 2017 12:06:36 | Updated: December 06, 2017 15:56:36

Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez (AP File Photo) Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez (AP File Photo)

The final vote count in Honduras' presidential election left the incumbent President with a narrow lead on Monday.

But the main opposition candidate called the tally a fraud and urged the police and armed forces to take control "to ensure the votes of people are respected."

Electoral officials said they were not declaring a winner yet, to allow the filing of challenges and appeals.

Opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla said at a news conference that he would take his case for a wide recount to the Organization of American States (OAS) after a hand-count of more 1,000 problematic ballot boxes wrapped up Monday, eight days after the election.

"I am the president-elect of Honduras, the president chosen by the people," said Nasralla, who had a five-point lead when nearly 58 percent of the votes were counted in the first hours after the Nov 26 election.

The count then slowed dramatically, and his lead gradually disappeared as results dribbled out, leading the opposition to claim the election was being stolen by President Juan Orlando Hernandez, reports the Associated Press.

Nasralla said he wants the OAS "to examine all the electoral documents that Hernandez manipulated to rob me of my victory." Over the weekend, he also called for a redo of the entire presidential election.

Referring to reports that some police officers were striking over pay issues, he called on them to join his cause.

The national police force countered that unfounded rumors about the supposed cancellation of policemen's Christmas bonus may have caused discontent and rushed to reassure officers they would be paid.

Officials blamed the slowness in the vote count on technical problems and deny any manipulation of the ballots.

Hernandez, who also already claimed victory, urged calm and national unity.

Hernandez expanded his lead in the final count by the electoral tribunal from about 46,000 votes to about 52,000. He said at a news conference that the election process wasn't formally over, because there is still a 10-day period in which appeals can be filed.

Electoral tribunal president David Matamoros said 100 percent of the ballots had been tabulated - although the website still showed 0.04 percent left to count. He said the court was not declaring a winner, adding "we will do that later."

The OAS observer mission issued a report saying "the tight margin of the results, and the irregularities, errors and systemic problems that have surrounded this election do not allow the Mission to hold certainty about the results."

The last ballot boxes that presented "inconsistencies" were examined without the presence of Nasralla and his Opposition Against Dictatorship alliance, which chose not to send representatives as vote tallying continued.

The US Embassy said in a statement that it was "pleased Honduran election authorities completed the special scrutiny process in a way that maximizes citizen participation and transparency."

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