Hondurans votes in disputed presidential elections
People in Honduras have gone to polls to elect a new president, members of the Congress, lawmakers and mayors as President Juan Orlando Hernandez seeks a re-election that many insist is illegal under the Central American country’s 1982 constitution.
David Matamoros, head of Honduras’ Supreme Electoral Tribunal, declared polls open earlier on Sunday as reports suggested some six million people were eligible to vote.
“We hope this will be a civic celebration,” Matamoros said, clearly making a reference to the controversy surrounding Hernandez’s bid for re-election.
The opposition in Honduras has alleged that Hernandez is defying a one-term constitutional limit although the ruling National Party rejects the claims and says a 2015 Supreme Court ruling allows a re-election.
National Party deputies accompanied Hernandez as he cast his vote in hometown of Gracias, in mountainous western Honduras, to the chant and cheering of supporters.
Honduras has one of the world’s most awful crime records. Hernandez boasts of his achievements in reducing the country’s murder rate, which was once the top in the world. The conservative figure also enjoys massive support from the US government and repeatedly quotes US officials who have hailed his records in fighting crimes.
Hernandez is seen as a front-runner to win the elections. His main rivals are Salvador Nasralla, a former TV anchor who represents the leftwing Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship coalition and Luis Zelaya, a candidate of the right-leaning Liberal Party.
The elections have also been marred by allegations that Hernandez and allies are seeking to rig the votes to ensure a smooth victory. Electoral authorities have rejected the claims, urging the voters to stay “vigilant” in the face of “false information.”