Friday, January 21, 2022

Big lead in opposition leftist race in Honduras election vote counting

Left-wing opposition candidate Xiomara Castro took an early lead in the Honduran presidential election on Sunday, partial election results show, putting her in pole position to become the Central American country’s first female leader.

With more than 27% of the votes counted, Castro, the wife of former President Manuel Zelaya, had 53.7% of the support, while the ruling National Party’s candidate Nasri Asafura got 33.8%, the National Electoral Council said.

The victory for Castro would end a dozen years of conservative rule, and return Honduran to power for the first time since Zelaya’s overthrow in a 2009 coup.

Castro supporters lauded the early results as proof of victory.

Still, the National Party and its Liberty and Refoundation (Liber) party both claimed victory the day after the vote, which saw a historic turnout, the electoral council said.

Castro has sought to unite the opposition of outgoing President Juan Orlando Hernández, who has denied allegations of links to powerful gangs despite an open investigation into alleged drug trafficking in the United States.

The 2017 runner-up, her front-running position was cemented by most polls after she tied the knot with a popular TV presenter.

Castro said, “We cannot stay at home. This is our moment. This is the moment to end the dictatorship.”

The candidate said he was confident voters would report any problems and that international observers would also help ensure a fair vote.

latest flashpoint

The election is the latest political flashpoint in Central America, a major source of immigrants living in America from chronic unemployment and mass violence. Honduras is one of the most violent countries in the world, although homicide rates have been declining recently.

Central America is also a major transit point for drug trafficking, and where concerns have risen over increasingly authoritarian governments.

The vote also prompted a diplomatic tussle between Beijing and Washington, when Castro said he would open diplomatic ties with China, emphasizing ties with US-backed Taiwan.

Among the 13 presidential candidates on the ballot is Castro’s main rival National Party’s Asafura, a wealthy businessman and two-term mayor of the capital who has tried to distance himself from the unpopular incumbent.

After casting his vote, a measured Asafura said he would respect the voter’s decision.

“I will respect whatever the Honduran people want in the end,” he said.

Some voters consulted by Reuters expressed dissatisfaction with his choice, but many others were clear favourites.

“I am against all corruption, poverty and drug trafficking,” said 27-year-old mechanic Jose Gonzalez as he voted for Castro.

‘This is Honduras’

Hernandez’s controversial 2017 re-election, and its ugly outcome, looms large. Widespread reports of irregularities, claiming the lives of more than two dozen people, provoked protests, but he dismissed the fraudulent claims and called for a re-vote.

Alexa Sanchez, a 22-year-old medical student, lay on a bench after voting while listening to music on her headphones and said she reluctantly voted for Castro.

“Honestly, it’s not like there were so many good options,” he said, adding that he was highly skeptical of the clean vote.

“I don’t think so,” she said. “This is Honduras.”

Several national and international election observers monitored Sunday’s vote, including the European Union’s 68-member mission.

The EU’s chief observer, Zeljana Zovko, told reporters around noon that her team saw mostly peaceful voting, although most polling stations they visited opened late.

“The campaign has been very difficult,” said Juliet Castellanos, a sociologist and former dean of the National Autonomous University of Honduras, noting that Castro “created great hopes.”

Castellanos said post-election violence is possible if the race is particularly close, if many complaints are filed and give rise to suspicions of widespread fraud, or if candidates declare themselves victorious prematurely.

As well as the presidency, voters are also deciding 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 stay with the ruling party.

“I hope Tito Asafura can change everything,” he said, using the mayor’s nickname.

“Look, there is corruption in all the governments here.”

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This article is republished from – Voa News – Read the – original article.

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