Opposition leftists vie for big leadership in Honduran elections Vote count
Partial election results showed leftist opposition candidate Chiomara Castro advanced in Honduras’ presidential election on Sunday, putting her in pole position to become the Central American country’s first female leader.
With more than 27% of the votes counted, Castro, wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, got 53.7% of the vote, while Nasri Asfoura, the ruling National Party candidate, got 33.8%, according to the National Electoral Council.
Castro’s victory would end decades of conservative rule, and return the Honduran to power for the first time since Zelaya was ousted in a 2009 coup.
Castro’s supporters welcomed the early results as evidence of victory.
However, the Electoral Council said the National Party and her Liberty and Refoundation party declared victory after a day of voting that saw a historic turnout.
Castro sought to unite opposition to outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernandez, who has denied accusations of links to powerful gangs, despite an open investigation in the United States linking him to alleged drug trafficking.
After teaming up with the 2017 bridesmaid, a popular TV presenter, most of the polls cemented her place in the lead.
We can’t stay at home. This is our moment. “This is the right moment to drive out the dictatorship,” Castro said, amid protests to reporters after the vote in the town of Catacamas.
The candidate said she was confident that voters would report any problems they saw and that international monitors would also help ensure a fair vote.
The latest bright spot
The elections are the latest flashpoint of political tension in Central America, and a major source of immigrants heading to the United States fleeing chronic unemployment and gang violence. Honduras is among the world’s most violent countries, although murder rates have been declining recently.
Central America is also a major transit point for drug smuggling, and where concerns about increasingly authoritarian governments are rising.
The vote also sparked a diplomatic conflict between Beijing and Washington after Castro said it would open diplomatic ties with China, downplaying the importance of ties with US-backed Taiwan.
Castro’s main rival among the 13 presidential candidates on the ballot is a bird of the National Party, a wealthy businessman and two-term mayor of the capital, who has tried to distance himself from the unpopular incumbent.
After casting his vote, the calculated Asfoura said he would respect the electorate’s judgment.
“Whatever the people of Honduras ultimately want, I will respect that,” he said.
Some voters consulted by Reuters expressed dissatisfaction with their choices, but many others clearly favored.
“I am against all corruption, poverty and drug trafficking,” said Jose Gonzalez, 27, a mechanic who said he was voting for Castro.
This is Honduras.
Looming on Hernandez’s contested re-election in 2017, and the ugly aftermath. Widespread reports of irregularities sparked protests that killed more than two dozen people, but he has dismissed allegations of fraud and called for a re-vote.
Alexa Sanchez, a 22-year-old medical student, relaxed on a bench right after the vote while listening to music on her headphones and said she voted reluctantly for Castro.
“Honestly, it’s not like there are such good options,” she said, adding that she was very skeptical about clean voting.
“I don’t think so,” she said. This is Honduras.
Several national and international election observers monitored Sunday’s vote, including the 68-member European Union mission.
Ziljana Zovko, the EU’s chief observer, told reporters at midday that her team had seen mostly a quiet vote with a high turnout, although most polling stations they visited opened their doors late.
“The campaign has been very difficult,” said Julieta Castellanos, a sociologist and former dean of the National Autonomous University of Honduras, noting that Castro “raised great expectations.”
Castellanos said that post-election violence is possible if the race is particularly close, if numerous complaints are filed and raise suspicions of widespread fraud, or if candidates are declared victory prematurely.
Besides the presidency, voters also decide on the composition of the country’s 128-member Congress, as well as officials from about 300 local governments.
In the working-class Kennedy neighborhood of Tegucigalpa, 56-year-old accountant Jose, who declined to give his surname, said he would stick with the ruling party.
“I hope Tito Asfora can change everything,” he said, using the mayor’s title.
“Look, here is corruption in all governments.”