Early results in the Honduran presidential election show that a television host has a surprise lead over the country’s current leader.
But both candidates are claiming victory after Sunday’s voting.
With 58 percent of the votes counted, Salvador Nasralla had 45.17 percent of the vote and President Juan Orlando Hernandez had 40.21 percent.
“I am the new president-elect of Honduras,” Nasralla wrote on Twitter after the results were announced.
Hernandez said in a brief statement that he had won. He asked supporters to wait for vote counts to come in from rural areas, where he has greater support.
The country’s election court said it will wait until all the votes are counted to release the results later in the week. A close result could lead to further tensions in Honduras, which has suffered years of severe gang crime and drug wars.
Hernandez has been credited with lowering a high murder rate, increasing economic growth and cutting the deficit since he took office in 2014. But he has also been accused of connections to illegal financing. His opponents also claim that he is plotting a power grab.
Hernandez’s attempt to win a second presidential term was divisive in Honduras. The country is still dealing with the effects from a 2009 coup. Former President Jose Manuel Zelaya was ousted after proposing a vote on lifting term limits.
Zelaya was at Nasralla’s side on Monday morning. Many people believe that the former president may be a major beneficiary if Nasralla wins.
A U.S. official said he did not think Hernandez would now be able to catch Nasralla in the vote count. He called this “a real stress test for Honduras’ democratic institutions and the leadership and character of its political figures.”
The United States views Hernandez as a reliable ally in handling drug trafficking, gangs and migration. The U.S. has longstanding military ties to Honduras and few among current Central American leaders.
Nasralla has not suggested he would reduce security cooperation with the United States. But U.S. officials do not trust his links to Zelaya.
I’m Jonathan Evans.
Gabriel Stargardter and Gustavo Palencia wrote this story for Reuters. Jonathan Evans adapted it for Learning English. Hai Do was the editor.
Words in this Story
beneficiary – n. a person, organization, etc., that is helped by something; someone or something that benefits from something