Conservative incumbent Juan Orlando Hernández and his challenger, left-wing alliance opposition leader Salvador Nasralla, have both declared themselves the next president of Honduras after the election on Sunday, prompting supporters from both sides to take to the streets to celebrate.
The two candidates declared victory despite the lack of official results.
“Opinion polls conducted before the election suggested Mr. Hernández would win,” reports BBC.
However, the British news outlet notes that Nasralla is in the lead at press time, with nearly 60 percent of the votes counted, adding, “[Nasralla] has just over 45% of the vote and Mr. Hernández just over 40%, the [electoral] tribunal’s president announced in the early hours of Sunday.”
The electoral tribunal is allied with Hernández.
News outlets describe Nasralla as the 64-year-old leader of a left-wing coalition known as the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship.
The opposition candidate, whose parents are of Lebanese descent, is a former TV presenter and sports journalists who ran against Hernández in 2013 and lost.
He vowed to combat corruption during his most recent campaign against the sitting Honduran president, Hernández.
“A win by Mr. Nasralla would represent a sharp rebuke to Mr. Hernández, an authoritarian leader who has maneuvered to take control over most of the country’s fragile institutions,” reports the New York Times (NYT).
Meanwhile, news outlets describe Hernández as a 49-year-old lawyer who heads the conservative National Alliance.
Referring to the incumbent, Al Jazeera notes, “The president, a close U.S. ally, has championed economic policies focused on attracting foreign private investment. Hernández has also strongly advocated militarization as the solution to the country’s public security woes.”
Hernández “is the first Honduran president to run for a second term after the supreme court lifted a ban on re-election,” and “says that if elected, he will continue fighting Honduras’ influential criminal gangs,” adds BBC.
Honduras is home to the violent Mara Salvatrucha (MS-13) gang that also operates across the United States.
The Mexican think-tank known as Citizen Council for Public, Security, Justice, and Peace deemed the Honduran city of San Pedro Sula as one of the most violent places in the world in 2013, when Hernández took office as the country’s president.
However, Hernández reportedly lowered the murder rate across the Central American nation.
“He also conducted a purge against corrupt police officers and created a new militarized police force,” notes BBC. “Revamped new maximum-security prisons have helped the government regain control over some jails from inmates.”
Nevertheless, the Nasralla opposition has affiliated Hernández with a massive corruption scandal, claiming that he was involved in funneling millions of dollars from the country’s money-strapped social security institute into his 2013 presidential campaign.
“They also say his government has become increasingly authoritarian, with a new anti-terrorism law making it a crime to march in protest,” points out BBC.