Left-wing candidate takes the lead over US ally Hernandez
FLAMBOYANT former TV host Salvador Nasralla proclaimed himself the winner of Sunday’s presidential elections in Honduras yesterday after the electoral tribunal took an age to release initial results.
Tribunal president David Matamoros finally released figures 10 hours after the ballot closed, showing that the left-wing Opposition Alliance Against Dictatorship candidate had taken the lead.
With 57 per cent of ballot boxes counted, Mr Nasralla was ahead with an almost five-point margin at 45.17 per cent over incumbent Juan Orlando Hernandez’s 40.21 per cent.
“I am the new president-elect of Honduras,” Mr Nasralla tweeted after the results were announced.
Mr Nasralla was backed by former president Manuel Zelaya, who was overthrown by the army in 2009.
His rival Mr Hernandez, who had previously claimed victory, reiterated that he had won, urging supporters to wait for fresh vote counts to come in from rural areas, where he claims to enjoy greater support.
But yesterday the gap appeared too great for him to catch up with Mr Nasralla.
A victory for Mr Nasralla would be a blow for Washington, which has longstanding military ties to Honduras and saw Mr Hernandez as an isolated US ally in the region.
The left-wing candidate travelled to the US in September, telling US politicians about the reality of the situation in Honduras and accusing the Hernandez regime of trying to rig the election.
The ousted former president Mr Zelaya was at Mr Nasralla’s side yesterday morning. As co-ordinator of the anti-dictatorship alliance, an opposition victory would spell vindication for him.
The army overthrew him over claims he was plotting to adopt socialist policies, ruffling the feathers of the country’s wealthy pro-US economic elites.
Even Mr Hernandez’s insistence on taking his place on the ballot to clinch a second term divided Honduras since his re-election bid was facilitated only by a contentious 2015 Supreme Court decision to ignore the constitution.
“Now he can back up his anti-corruption positions. Or not,” said an unnamed US official, adding that Washington expects to work “co-operatively in a number of ways” with Mr Nasralla.