PROTESTS grew in Honduras yesterday as right-wing incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez emerged with a supposed slim lead for re-election following a computer glitch that shut down vote counting for several hours.
Challenger Salvador Nasralla has alleged fraud and said the official results can no longer be trusted. His five-point lead has seemingly evaporated as the drawn-out count has continued.
Mr Nasralla is supported by Manuel Zelaya, ousted as president in a US-backed coup in 2009 that reinstalled wealthy elites who were unhappy at his leftward direction.
National police and troops fired tear gas and chased Mr Nasralla’s supporters from the area in front of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in the capital Tegucigalpa, regional news network Telesur reported.
Several people had to be taken to hospital and the police tear gas forced electoral staff to briefly evacuate their offices.
Opposition supporters had protested through the night, setting up some roadblocks and lighting bonfires.
Other protesters from the country’s interior gathered on the capital’s outskirts yesterday, preparing to march in protest.
Riot police equipped with truncheons and tear gas closed two central boulevards. Vehicles with water cannons for crowd control were visible.
The Star reported yesterday that social media videos had shown lines of army lorries carrying soldiers towards the capital.
Mr Nasralla urged his supporters to continue to protest peacefully and not be provoked into violence.
Electoral tribunal president David Matamoros said complete results would be available yesterday afternoon, after the Star went to press.
The validity of those results, however, is dubious.
Mr Nasralla noted that the tribunal’s computer systems unexpectedly shut down at 3pm on Wednesday and workers began counting unsigned ballots. Only signed ballot papers are considered valid.
In addition, electoral officials stopped publishing results on the tribunal’s website on Monday and only resumed 36 hours later under pressure from international organisations.
Deposed president Mr Zelaya noted that it was “the first time” ever that the electoral tribunal hadn’t produced results on the required schedule.