A recount of votes from more than a thousand disputed ballot boxes following last week's presidential election in Honduras has ended with the incumbent still in the lead. But allegations of election fraud persist.
Incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez appeared to be the winner after the electoral tribunal in Honduras completed a partial recount of nearly 6 percent of ballots from November's disputed election.
According to the tally released Monday, Hernandez — who ran for re-election despite a constitutional ban on second terms — was ahead of his main challenger, Salvador Nasralla, by 52,000 votes. That lead that gave him a 43 percent vote share to Nasralla's 41.4 percent.
Yet David Matamoros, the tribunal's president, has yet to officially declare a winner. "We will do that later," he said, citing the right for parties to challenge the result in the next 10 days.
Hernandez also stopped short of declaring himself the winner of the vote and instead called for the country to come together. "I make a call for peace, for brotherhood, for sanity, for national unity. My commitment to work for peace and tranquility of Honduras is more firm than ever," he said.
'Irregularities, errors and systematic problems'
On Sunday authorities ordered 1,031 ballot boxes reopened after inaccuracies were detected, ignoring calls by Nasralla — the candidate for the leftist Alliance of Opposition Against Dictatorship and a well-known TV personality — to include ballot boxes from thousands more polling stations, as well.
An observer mission from the Organization of American States (OAS) said it could not endorse the outcome. "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," it said.
The US Embassy welcomed the recount, but called on political leaders "to ensure a result that represents the will of the Honduran people."
Opposition misses recount
Representatives for Nasralla were asked to oversee the partial recount on Sunday, but did not show up.
"The Honduran people deserve a result, and the result cannot be held up by any presidential candidate or any party," Matamoros said.
Opposition leader Nasralla led a rally on Sunday, calling the electoral tribunal 'neither credible nor trustworthy'
Accusations of election fraud were boosted in the days after the November 26 vote when Nasralla's 5 percent lead in early counts was reversed in favor of Hernandez. A lengthy delay in the count only fed opposition complaints of irregularities.
Thousands of Nasralla's supporters took to the streets of the capital, Tegucigalpa, again on Sunday to accuse Hernandez and his government of trying to steal the election.
Nasralla told a rally that members of the electoral tribunal "are employees of President Hernandez."
"The tribunal is not an independent organization and as such is neither credible nor trustworthy for the people," he said.
New vote demanded
Nasralla has called for the creation of an international election tribunal to oversee a new presidential vote.
Since late last week at least one person, a 19-year-old woman, has been killed during demonstrations in which hundreds have been arrested. Several other unconfirmed deaths have been reported. The military is enforcing a 10-day 6 p.m.-to-6 a.m. curfew in an attempt to quell demonstrations.
Read more: The faces behind Honduras' election turmoil
Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Central America and has a 27 percent unemployment rate. It struggles with violence related to the drug trade and has one of the world's highest murder rates.
Hernandez implemented a US-backed military crackdown on gangs after he took office in January 2014.
The 64-year-old Nasralla is one of Honduras' best-known faces. He is backed by former President Manuel Zelaya, a leftist ousted in a coup in 2009.
amp, mm/se (AFP, AP, Reuters)