Opposition wants foreign help in Honduras vote recount


Tegucigalpa (AFP)

Supporters of President Juan Orlando Hernandez were preparing for a public show of support Thursday, as his rival Salvador Nasralla called for foreign help in a presidential vote recount amid widespread claims of rigging.

The Central American nation of 10 million has plunged into uncertainty punctuated with clashes since the November 26 election pitting Hernandez against leftwing former TV presenter Nasralla, with both sides claiming victory.

Hernandez ordered a state of emergency on Friday to curb protests and pillaging, but at least three deaths have been reported in clashes since election day.

The president said he welcomed an opposition demand to re-open ballot boxes.

However the opposition has not filed a formal request -- and Nasralla on Wednesday, showing deep mistrust for local authorities, called on international observers to carry out the review.

Mexico, Argentina, Colombia and five other Latin American countries said they would support the review. In a joint statement they urged Hondurans to "peacefully await" the results.

In the first hours after the late November vote Nasralla seemed heading for a comfortable win.

But then ballot counting was delayed multiple times, with election authorities speaking of computer malfunctions, before results trickled out that credited Hernandez with a slight lead.

The Supreme Electoral Authority said Hernandez won 42.98 percent, against 41.39 percent for Nasralla -- but refused to name a winner, saying appeals might challenge the result.

After days of unrest the capital Tegucigalpa was slowly returning to normal, with schools and universities opening their doors again on Wednesday.

Clashes however may break out when the president's supporters march Thursday in support of his re-election, a demonstration that follows days of anti-government protests.

A violinist in a threadbare suit playing Christmas music in the busy downtown area had a strong opinion about the election.

"Everyone knows that there was fraud," he said, complaining that the Electoral Authority "has the country upside down."

For activist Carmen Castro the result was simple: "We're the laughingstock of the world," she said.

Hernandez's authority appeared fragile as hundreds of police officers refused to enforce a nighttime curfew late Monday. Officers returned to work Tuesday on condition that the government would not force them to repress protesters.