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Honduras election: Tensions high as vote count delayed

Honduras election: Tensions high as vote count delayed
From Al Jazeera - November 30, 2017

Tegucigalpa, Honduras - Tensions are high in Honduras as the outcome of Sunday's presidential elections has been lurched into uncertainty in the final leg of the long-delayed vote count.

Opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla vowed to not accept the official results if the win is handed to his opponent, President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

With 88.76 percent of ballot boxes counted, incumbent President Hernandez, with 42.48 percent of the vote, had a slight lead over the Opposition Alliance's Nasralla with 41.7 percent, according to the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE).

Both candidates had claimed victory just hours after polls closed in Sunday's election, but long silences from the TSE has threatened the provoke political unrest and chaos throughout the country.

In its first report of preliminary results early on Tuesday, Nasralla led by nearly five percentage points with 57 percent of the ballot boxes counted.

Following the initial report, TSE magistrate Ramiro Lobo called the result an "irreversible" trend of a win for Nasralla.

But by Tuesday afternoon, the gap between the two main candidates began to close, and by Wednesday, Hernandez had inched ahead of Nasralla, raising suspicions of foul play and spoking tensions in an already anxious waiting game.

"We do not want Juan Orlando in power any more," 19-year-old student Raquel, who declined to disclose her last name, told Al Jazeera during a grassroots opposition rally on Wednesday in Tegucigalpa outside where ballots are being counted.

"It's already clear he is trying to carry out fraud to stay in power and we are not going to allow that," Raquel said.

"We are not going to allow him to exercise his dictatorship."

Gerardo Torres, international director of the Opposition Alliance, accused the TSE, whose president, David Matamoros, was formerly a National Party member of Congress and the party's general secretary, of performing "electoral manipulation and forge an electoral coup".

"They know they lost," Torres told Al Jazeera.

"And only through disorder, or a state of emergency, or an electoral coup can they stay in power," he added.

"They are dividing the Honduran people through a psychological war."

The TSE's Lobo told media that the shift was due to the TSE processing ballots from areas where Hernandez had strong support.

He said the initial trend was unchanged and that when the count included ballots of Nasralla's strongholds in the northern part of the country, official results would swing back in his favour.

Meanwhile Hernandez's supporters took to the streets Wednesday in a caravan waving blue flags of the National Party to celebrate the incumbent president's lead and the party's success in all levels of government.

'Dishonest system'

Hernandez and Nasralla signed an accord Wednesday at the request of the Organization of American States agreeing to respect the TSE's final results.

'Anything can be expected'

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