Delayed election results and allegations of fraud have plunged Honduras into uncertainty. The opposition is now demanding a new election, and has called for a major demonstration against "dictatorship and fraud."
The main opposition candidate in Honduras' contested presidential election on Saturday called for a new vote as security forces sought to control deadly street protests and impose a curfew.
Opposition alliance leader Salvador Nasralla told local media that the counting of ballots from last Sunday's election and government declaration of a state of emergency on Friday night amounted to a "coup."
Incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez leads with 42.92 percent of the votes compared with Nasralla's 41.42 percent, according to the last results posted by the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) on Friday, with 94.35 percent of polling stations processed.
Both Hernandez and Nasralla have claimed victory.
Read more: The faces behind Honduras' election turmoil
Deadlock over vote recount
The left-leaning Nasralla had a 5 percent lead on Monday with more than half the votes counted, but he then fell behind when new numbers were announced on Tuesday. The opposition claims such math is impossible.
The 64-year-old Nasralla has demanded that more than 5,000 ballot boxes be recounted, far above the 1,031 ballot boxes — or roughly 6 percent of the vote — the TSE has identified for a recount due to "irregularities."
TSE head David Matamoros said Friday that representatives from both parties would be present for the special recount, alongside international observers.
But on Saturday, the opposition alliance failed for a second day to send representatives for the recount, saying it would not participate unless some 5,000 ballot boxes were recounted.
The TSE "has nothing to hide, but I think it is important that we understand that this election does not belong to Salvador Nasralla or Juan Orlando Hernandez," Matamoros said Saturday as he announced another delay in vote counting.
Security clampdown, new protests called
The electoral deadlock has sparked concerns of instability and a drawn-out political crisis in the poor Central American country wracked by gang violence.
On Saturday, security forces fanned out across cities to enforce a dusk-to-dawn curfew and clamp down on protesters after a 10-day state of emergency was declared due to widespread looting and protesters blocking roads.
At least two people have been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces since Wednesday. Security forces said several hundred people have been arrested.
The National Human Rights Roundtable issued a statement on Saturday warning that the human rights situation was becoming increasingly critical, with "high levels of repression of the political opposition by the national security forces and an increase in stigmatization and persecution of the people perceived as opposed to the government."
Nasralla's center-left alliance, which is backed by former President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a coup in 2009, have called for a major demonstration on Sunday across the country against "dictatorship and fraud."
cw/cmk (AP, EFE, Reuters)