No let-up in fears that election has been rigged to keep leftwinger out of office
HONDURAS’S Supreme Electoral Tribunal began a hand count yesterday of 1,031 “inconsistent” ballot boxes.
The tribunal claimed to have finished counting 95 per cent of the ballot boxes from last Sunday’s presidential election.
But there is a widespread fear that the count, which has taken far longer than in previous years, is being rigged to deny power to left-leaning challenger Salvador Nasralla.
Three people have been killed while protesting against the suspected manipulation and dozens more have been hurt.
Mr Nasralla is supported by former president Manuel Zelaya, who was ousted in 2009 in a US-backed coup when the country’s wealthy elites took fright at him tacking leftwards.
Mr Nasralla has seen a substantial five-point lead over right-wing incumbent Juan Orlando Hernandez evaporate as the vote counting has dragged on all week.
Mr Hernandez now supposedly has a lead of 46,000, but few credit this as an accurate account of the vote. The UN human rights office and both regional and EU observers have all criticised the electoral tribunal’s conduct.
Electoral tribunal president David Matamoros said on Thursday night that representatives of the political parties would be present for the vote counts and that no announcements would be made until there was a final result.
People have taken to the streets of Tegucigalpa to protest at the electoral machinations against Mr Nasralla, with many Hondurans travelling to the capital to take part.
National Police spokesman Jair Meza said 12 people had been wounded as security forces tried to clear the streets.
Tooled-up riot police have been deployed, armed with tear gas, truncheons, rubber-coated steel baton rounds and water cannon.
Miguel Osorio, a spokesman for the University School Hospital in Tegucigalpa, said yesterday that doctors there had treated 10 people for gunshot wounds since the protests began.
There was a serious increase in internal repression following the 2009 coup, with many activists murdered.
It appears that a police crackdown on opposition supporters is already under way. Foreign journalists have reported being beaten up by police while covering protests by Mr Nasralla’s supporters.