While only about half of the ballots have been counted, this has not stopped the two leading candidates in Honduras’ presidential race from declaring victory.
LIBRE candidate Xiomara Castro was the first to do so, telling her followers before the initial vote count had even been released: “According to exit polls, I am the president of Honduras.” When the Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) released preliminary results showing her trailing behind Juan Orlando Hernandez (the TSE’s latest numbers show 34.26 percent for him and 28.73 percent for Castro), the National Party candidate followed suit, declaring himself the winner.
Hernandez also claimed that he had been congratulated by various heads of state in the region. He began his victory speech by apologizing for being late to take the podium, saying he had just gotten off the phone with President Juan Manuel Santos of Colombia. The Honduran ambassador to the U.S. also told reporters that Hernandez had been commended for the win by Panamanian President Ricardo Martinelli.
The TSE, meanwhile, has stressed that these are only preliminary results, and no candidate has been declared winner yet. TSE President David Matamoros also told reporters that yesterday saw a record turnout, with 61 percent of eligible voters participating.
More conclusive results are expected to be released today. Considering that both candidates have already declared victory, it seems unlikely that either will be particularly quick to concede.
Political jockeying aside, the elections themselves ran relatively smoothly. The AP reports that both U.S. Ambassador Lisa Kubiske and Ulrike Lunacek, head of the European Union observer mission, endorsed the transparency of the voting process. Enrique Correa, head of the OAS observer mission, also praised the vote, telling The Washington Post that there were no signs of fraud.
There were some reports of violence and other irregularities, however. In the southeastern Mosquitia region, five people were gunned down after a fight broke out outside of a voting center in the town of Ibans. La Prensa reports that locals say the election process was suspended following the incident. The Roundtable for Analysis of Human Rights Violations (Mesa de Análisis sobre Violacion a Derechos Humanos), a coalition of human rights, labor and campesino groups, counted at least 63 reports of irregularities, including allegations that armed men intimidated voters in some rural communities.
Today’s New York Times offers a dramatic take on the significance of the elections for Honduran democracy, reporting that “[r]egardless of the final result, it was clear that Honduran politics was entering a new, potentially messy period, when multiple parties would have to negotiate to get laws passed and new voices representing the country’s marginalized poor would get a hearing.”
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