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TV star poised to beat U.S.-friendly incumbent in Honduras vote

TV star poised to beat U.S.-friendly incumbent in Honduras vote
From Reuters - November 27, 2017

TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - A TV host was on course for victory in the Honduran presidential race on Monday, in a dramatic election that upended forecasts of a win for the countrys U.S.-friendly incumbent.

Flamboyant entertainer Salvador Nasralla, 64, was ahead by a 5 point margin with 70 percent of ballots counted, election official Marcos Ramiro Lobo told Reuters.

That was too large a lead for his rival, center-right President Juan Orlando Hernandez, to overcome, Lobo said.

He did not say what percentage of the vote Nasralla had, but an initial tally of more than half of ballots early on Monday gave Nasralla 45 percent, and Hernandez 40 percent.

The TV star helms a left-right coalition called the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship. Thousands of his young supporters poured onto the streets of the capital Tegucigalpa on Monday waving red flags and cheering.

Thank you so much, Nasralla told them outside the election tribunal office. I dont have words for the emotion I feel right now.

One of the poorest nations in the Americas, Honduras has been blighted with years of gang violence, giving it one of the worlds highest murder rates. Nasralla tapped into widespread disillusionment about the countrys future, particularly among exasperated young voters.

We want democracy, we want human rights to be respected and we want more jobs, so that there are more opportunities for the young so we can live dignified lives, said 25-year-old Samuel Padilla, a trained mechanic who had not found work in two years.

Nasralla is backed by former President Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in a 2009 coup after he proposed a referendum on his re-election. The dramatic comeback by the one-time leftist appears likely to raise concerns in Washington.

Hernandez has not yet conceded defeat, however.

He said on Twitter on Monday evening that he was waiting for officials to ratify the resounding triumph of the presidential election.

This isnt over until its over! he said.

A second tribunal official told reporters more detailed results could come later on Monday, or even Tuesday.

But Lobo said Nasralla now appeared certain to win.

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