TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) – Honduras’ opposition Liberal Party on Friday presented a formal request to annul the results of the still-unresolved presidential election, deepening a political crisis that has roiled the poor, violent Central American nation.
The Liberal Party’s candidate, Luis Zelaya, came third in the Nov. 26 vote, which has been tarnished by allegations of electoral fraud, protests and growing international concern.
But Zelaya has repeatedly said opposition leader Salvador Nasralla won the election, despite trailing conservative President Juan Orlando Hernandez by 1.6 percentage points according to the election tribunal’s official count. The widely criticized tribunal has yet to declare a winner.
On Friday, Liberal Party Secretary Octavio Pineda presented a formal request to the tribunal to have the election results annulled, citing a violation of constitutional norms. Nasralla’s center-left coalition is expected to present its own annulment request later on Friday.
“There have been violations since the president of the republic was allowed to participate in the electoral process when the constitution prohibited it,” Pineda said.
Hernandez’s bid for a second term, which was made possible by a 2015 Supreme Court decision on term limits, divided opinion in the coffee-exporting nation of 9 million people.
The election has been plagued with problems since voting stations closed.
The tribunal declared Nasralla the leader in an announcement on the morning after the vote, with just over half of the ballot boxes counted. However, it gave no further updates for about 36 hours. Once results then started flowing again, Nasralla’s lead quickly started narrowing, sparking a major outcry.
On Thursday, after meeting with the United States’ top diplomat in Honduras and the Organization of American States (OAS) country representative, tribunal chief David Matamoros said there would be a re-count of ballot boxes that arrived after the 36-hour pause, and which the opposition has claimed are tainted.
The OAS, which on Wednesday said it may call for new elections if “irregularities” undermine the credibility of results, had previously called for a recount of those 4,753 ballot boxes.
Nasralla on Wednesday evening called for an international arbiter to oversee a recount of the entire 18,000-odd ballot boxes, saying he no longer recognized the Honduran tribunal because of its role in the process.
Reporting by Gustavo Palencia