Electoral court declares Honduran President Hernandez re-elected, after three-week delay and accusations of fraud

PUBLISHED : Monday, 18 December, 2017, 3:06pm
UPDATED : Monday, 18 December, 2017, 11:09pm

President Juan Orlando Hernandez has been declared the winner of Honduras’ disputed election after three weeks of uncertainty and unrest in which at least 17 people died in protests amid the opposition’s allegations of vote fraud.

Electoral court president David Matamoros made the announcement on Sunday, saying: “We have fulfilled our obligation (and) we wish for there to be peace in our country.”

According to the court’s official count, Hernandez won with 42.95 per cent to 41.42 per cent for runner-up Salvador Nasralla, who long before the announcement had challenged the result and said he would not recognise it.

His party called for more protests Monday.

There was no immediate public comment by Hernandez, whose sister Hilda Hernandez, a Cabinet minister, died Saturday in a helicopter crash.

Earlier in the day Nasralla travelled to Washington to present what he called “numerous” examples of evidence of alleged fraud. He said he planned to meet with officials from the Organisation of American States, the US State Department and human rights groups.

“We will seek an international response to help the will of the Honduran people to be respected in order to end the political crisis we face,” Nasralla said at the international airport of Tegucigalpa before departing.

OAS Secretary General Luis Almagro said via Twitter shortly before the announcement that election observers concluded “serious doubts persist about the results.” He asked that no “irresponsible pronouncements” be made before observers could make definitive reports.

The first results reported by the electoral court before dawn the day after the November 26 election showed Nasralla with a significant lead over Hernandez with nearly 60 per cent of the vote counted.

Then public updates of the count mysteriously stopped for more than a day, and when they resumed, that lead steadily eroded and ultimately reversed in Hernandez’s favour.

The electoral court recently conducted a recount of ballot boxes that presented irregularities and said there was virtually no change to its count. Since then it had been considering challenges filed by candidates.

Despite widespread suspicions of electoral malfeasance, especially among Nasralla’s supporters, Matamoros defended the court’s performance. He said it had presided over “the most transparent electoral process ever seen in Honduras.”

Hernandez, a 49-year-old businessman and former lawmaker, took office in January 2014 and built support largely on a drop in violence in this impoverished Central American country.

According to Honduras’ National Autonomous University, the nation’s homicide rate has plummeted from a dizzying high of 91.6 per 100,000 inhabitants in 2011 to 59 per 100,000 – though Honduras remains among the deadliest places in the world.

But corruption and drug trafficking allegations cast a shadow over Hernandez’s government, and his re-election bid fuelled charges that his National Party was seeking to entrench itself in power by getting a court ruling allowing him to seek a second term.

Re-election had long been outlawed in the country, and in 2009 then President Manuel Zelaya was ousted in a coup ostensibly because he wanted to run again himself.