Challenger Salvador Nasralla is alleging fraud and says he will not recognize the office results of Sunday's election after his early five-point lead vanished in recent days as official results continued to trickle in from rural areas.
By Thursday, the incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernández had a slim lead after what was described as a computer glitch temporarily shut down vote counting for several hours earlier in the week raising widespread concern that the results were being tampered with.
Officials say the computer problem was resolved and did not affect the vote.
Hernández was leading by 25,000 votes after about 89% of Sunday’s votes was counted, giving him a lead of 42.54% to Nasralla’s 41.69%. Final results are expected by Thursday afternoon.
Adding to the confusion both candidates ahve declared declared themselves the winner.
Opposition supporters protested through the night outside the electoral court’s facilities, setting up some highway roadblocks and lighting fires in the streets, AP reported. Police responded with tear gas as calls to maintain calm were increasingly unheeded.
Nasralla via Twitter asked his supporters to continue to protest peacefully and not be provoked into violence.
Late Wednesday, Nasralla disavowed an agreement he and Hernández had signed with the Organization of American States to respect the official results.
“I signed that document before the electoral court’s computing center went down, and that was a trap,” Nasralla said at a news conference. “The agreement with the OAS was to respect trustworthy results without alterations ... and the court has altered the documents in the last two days. That is unacceptable.”
The Hernández government faces widespread accusations of corruption. In an interview with veteran Miami reporter, Tim Padgett, earlier this year, Hernandez wouldn’t say why his party keeps rejecting the appointment of a special U.N. anti-corruption prosecutor in Honduras. Neighboring Guatemala appointed one who then led an investigation that forced President Otto Pérez to resign two years ago in the face of corruption charges.
At the root of concerns about Hernandez is the manner in which he is seeking re-election. In 2009, his National Party accused then President Zelaya of wanting to change Honduras’ constitution to allow presidential reelection, and eventually forecd him out of office in a virtual coup d'etat. Six years later, in 2015, they got the Supreme Court to change the constitution to allow Hernández’s reelection.
Hernández has enjoyed the support of the United States especially in efforts at police reform which has helped to bring down the country's astronomical murder rate. "But he and his party grossly underestimated how angry voters are about corruption – and how it deepens Honduras’ wealth inequality, the worst in Latin America – and its human rights abuses," writes Padgett.