After a chaotic voting process that went on for nearly three days, Honduras elected its new leader — well, sort of.
Election officials released preliminary results 10 hours after the polls closed, announcing candidate Salvador Nasralla in the lead with 45.2% votes. He was running against conservative President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who heads the National Party of Honduras. Hernandez, a 49-year-old lawyer seeking re-election, received 40.2% of the votes.
Nasralla, who based his campaign on fighting corruption, heads the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship, a left-wing alliance. He also ran for the presidency in 2013 but lost to Hernandez.
After voting took place, the country's vote-counting body reportedly stopped updating the public and faced allegations of lack of transparency.
As of Thursday, no final result has been announced.
The electoral commission suspended ballot counting of ballots early. The commission is allegedly controlled by allies of Hernandez.
“We don’t recognize the results of the cheating,” Nasralla, a former sportscaster, said at a news conference as supporters cheered. Holding up what he said were copies of unsigned tally sheets, he said, “They are taking us for fools, and they want to steal our victory.”
In the face of all this political uncertainty, both the parties have claimed victory.
Nasralla’s lead over Hernandez was an unexpected development for the authoritarian government.
The 64-year-old challenger to the current president said he was "worried" that his rival was trying to steal the election by manipulating the country's vote-counting body, the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.
Hernandez’s government suffered because of the corruption and drug trafficking allegations against him. Local people, peasant farmers, the LGBT community, lawyers, human rights defenders and other social leaders have suffered widespread abuses during his presidency.
When he ran for president in 2013, there were multiple allegations of vote buying, intimidation, and killing of political opponents. He was criticized for not being able to bring about justice after environmental and indigenous rights activist Berta Caceres, who was murdered in 2016.
"The life of Honduran people is at play in this election because we're in an economic crisis [and] the human rights violations by the government are increasingly evident," Kevhin Ramos of the Association for Democracy and Human Rights told Al Jazeera.
"It's been an aggressive government, and if [Hernandez] wins, it could represent a great setback for human rights," he continued.
Thumbnail Credits: Reuters, Jorge Cabrera