The electoral board in Honduras has agreed to hold a partial recount after the socialist opposition alleged electoral fraud on behalf of the conservative incumbent who appears to have narrowly scraped a victory.
Authorities agreed to recount ballots from over 5,000 polling stations, which represent around a third of all voting sites.
“We are going to review the [ballots], and if there are discrepancies we will look at them to see what the problem is,” said David Matamoros, chief of the country’s electoral tribunal.
Both candidates, incumbent conservative Juan Orlando Hernández and his challenger, left-wing leader Salvador Nasralla, declared victory following the election that took place last Sunday.
Nasralla, a 64-year-old former TV presenter and sports journalist of Lebanese descent, who previously ran against Hernández in 2013, is the leader of a left-wing coalition known as the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship. His campaign promised to root out corruption at the heart of the country’s government and increased public spending.
Meanwhile, Hernández, a 49-year-old former lawyer who has ruled Honduras since 2013, remains a strong ally of the U.S. and has promoted economic policies based on attracting foreign private investment. He has also championed the use of military force as the solution to the country’s high levels of violence and boasts of significantly lowering the country’s murder rate.
His latest campaign focused on continuing to fight the country’s powerful criminal gangs, including the violent Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang that also operates across the United States. Yet opponents fear he intends to rule by decree after successfully fighting a Honduran supreme court on presidents running for a second term.
Opinion polls in the run-up to the election suggested Hernández would win by a comfortable margin, although the final vote tally indicated that he had won 42.98 percent of the vote, compared with 41.38 percent for Nasralla.
However, Nasralla and his supporters have alleged widespread voter fraud, claimed that the election had been “stolen” by members of the electoral council loyal to Hernandez’s National Party, and called for a full recount or a run-off election.
“I suggest to the electoral tribunal to review the 18,103 proceedings, including collating file signatures and recounting votes so that everyone is satisfied,” Nasralla wrote on Twitter. “If they do not like this, let’s go to a second round [of voting] between JOH and Salvador Nasralla who, according to the people, won.
Sugiero al tribunal electoral revisar las 18.103 actas incluyendo cotejar firmas de cuadernillos y recuento de votos para que todo el mundo quede conforme ;si no les parece esto vamos a una segunda vuelta entre JOH y Salvador Nasralla que según el pueblo ganó
— Salvador Nasralla (@SalvadorAlianza) December 5, 2017
The uncertainty has sparked violent protests, leading to the deaths of eight civilians, while authorities have also introduced a nighttime curfew in the Central American country, which remains one of the world’s poorest and most violent nations.
— Richard Ensor (@richardjensor) December 3, 2017
On Monday, Hernández has called for “brotherhood, for sanity, and for national unity”.