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Hernandez has 'irreversible' lead in Honduras presidential vote

Conservative Juan Orlando Hernandez looks set for victory in the Honduras presidential race, according to election authorities. The win will keep the National Party in power another four years in the troubled country.

The electoral court said late Monday that Hernandez's lead was "irreversible." With 67 percent of results counted from Sunday's election, the vote stood at 24 percent for Hernandez compared to around 29 percent for his leftist opponent, Xiomara Castro.

"The outcome is decisive. The figures that we have reported reflect a trend that is irreversible," said David Matamoros, head of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, though he did not officially declare a winner.

Hernandez, 45, and Castro, the wife of deposed former president Manuel Zelaya, had both declared victory after polls closed on election day. Castro rejected the results late Sunday and the opposition vowed to take the streets, setting the stage for a possible political conflict.

The electoral court's announcement came after unexplained delay of several hours in releasing a votes update. Representatives from the country's two leading parties reportedly met during the lull, though neither they nor election officials offered any comment. Final results are due to be issued on Tuesday.

The divided result is unlikely to bring swift change for the 8.5 million people in Honduras, which has the world's highest murder rate. Gangs control many areas of the country and it is used as a major point of transit for the trafficking of cocaine from South America to the United States.

dr/ccp (AP, AFP, Reuters)