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article imageHonduras opposition demands 'rigged' vote be canceled

By Noe LEIVA (AFP)     Dec 9, 2017 in World

Honduras's leftwing opposition is demanding a presidential election held two weeks ago be voided and its results annulled, alleging it was "rigged" in favor of incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

The Alliance Against the Dictatorship coalition backing Hernandez's chief rival in the poll, Salvador Nasralla, lodged the demand late Friday with the Supreme Electoral Tribunal.

Both Hernandez and Nasralla claimed victory after the November 26 election.

The electoral tribunal has not declared a winner, though the complete results it has released show Hernandez scoring a slender advantage over Nasralla -- despite an initial count putting Nasralla comfortably in the lead.

The tribunal said Hernandez received 42.98 percent of the ballots, while Nasralla got 41.38 percent. But it said that count could be subject to appeal.

The small Central American nation of 10 million has been mired in uncertainty since the election, with competing demonstrations for Hernandez and Nasralla.

- 'Dangerous' repression -

Sporadic violence has occurred, prompting Hernandez to order a state of emergency with a nighttime curfew.

Police, however, have said they will not repress anti-Hernandez protests.

Amnesty International denounced "dangerous and illegal tactics" to silence dissent.

It said at least 14 people have been killed since the election, but there was no confirmation from police or other officials of that toll, at least in relation to the political crisis. The death of one young woman and two officers have been confirmed.

Nasralla, a 64-year-old former TV presenter with minimal political experience, insists the vote was "rigged" to deny him a clear victory.

"This is a process where there is robbery on all sides," Nasralla said after lodging his demand with the opposition coalition's lawyer.

He initially demanded a partial, then a full recount before the opposition upped the ante further with the request to scrap the presidential election.

The Supreme Electoral Tribunal on Thursday started with a partial recount. But no observers from the opposition took part, making it unlikely that its results would appease Nasralla's camp.

The coordinator for the opposition coalition, former president Manuel Zelaya, called on Twitter for a national mobilization on Sunday against "the fraud and the dictatorship" of Hernandez.

- Controversial re-election bid -

The conservative Liberal Party -- which is not part of the leftwing alliance -- is calling for a cancelation not only of the presidential election but also legislative and local elections that also took place on November 26, and which gave the advantage to Hernandez's rightwing National Party.

International observers have expressed reservations over the poll, which the Organization for American States said was marred by irregularities.

Hernandez, a 49-year-old lawyer, sought re-election under a cloud of controversy.

Under Honduras' constitution, presidents can hold no more than one term.

In 2015, the country's Supreme Court -- which detractors say is stacked with Hernandez loyalists -- overruled that ban, although the opposition said it did not have the power to do so.

Hernandez had implicit backing from the United States, which is pouring millions of dollars into Honduras and neighboring Guatemala and El Salvador to improve public safety conditions there.

Those three countries, collectively known as Central America's "Northern Triangle," are the biggest source of undocumented migrants heading to the United States.

The US State Department on Wednesday issued an alert to US citizens to avoid non-essential travel to the country, citing "volatile and dangerous" demonstrations, rioting and looting in the wake of the election.

On Saturday, the US charge d'affaires of the American embassy in Honduras, Heide Fulton, visited the Supreme Electoral Tribunal to back the recount.

Her government, she said, wanted the conclusion of a "credible and transparent" process "that reflects the will on the Honduran people."

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