Honduras Presidential Vote Count Disputed by Zelaya

Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya, ousted in a 2009 coup, rejected official election results showing his wife, Xiomara Castro, losing the presidential vote with more than half the precincts reporting.

Zelaya, whose overthrow prompted violence and looting in the Central American country four years ago, said at a news conference today that supporters should be prepared to take to the streets peacefully to defend their rights in yesterday’s vote. With 62 percent of precincts reporting, official results show Juan Orlando Hernandez of the ruling National Party with 34 percent compared with 29 percent for Castro. Final results are expected by the end of the day.

“If necessary we will go to the streets to defend the results,” Zelaya told cheering supporters in the capital, Tegucigalpa, at an event not attended by his wife. “Prove to us, poll by poll, document by document, that your results are different than ours.”

The head of the European Union’s observer mission said yesterday that voting was “peaceful and transparent” amid record turnout. President Porfirio Lobo joined leaders from Colombia, Guatemala, Nicaragua and Panama in congratulating Hernandez. At a news conference today, the 45-year-old Hernandez said he would not negotiate his electoral “triumph.”

Eight candidates vied for the presidency, which has been held by the National Party or the Liberal Party for over a century. There is no second-round vote, so whoever gets the most votes wins.

Embassy Asylum

Honduras has been polarized since the 2009 coup, during which Zelaya sneaked back into the country and took shelter at the Brazilian Embassy after being forced into exile. An accord with the government then allowed him to depart for the Dominican Republic. He returned to Honduras in 2011 and Castro, who had led protest marches in his absence, helped found the Libre party.

“Honduras continues to be deeply divided, and some just don’t trust the institutions of government,” said Eric Olson, the associate director of the Latin American Program at the Wilson Center in Washington, in a phone interview today.

Hernandez, 45, said last night that the election results showed people wanted to move on from the coup.

“The Honduran people voted to leave the 2009 crisis, the worst Honduras has ever had, behind,” Hernandez told supporters in the capital yesterday. He vowed to use the military to “regain peace and calm” in the country ranked as the most violent in the world according to the United Nations.

Investors wary of Zelaya’s former alliance with late Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez have fueled a rally in Honduran bonds since September as polls showed Hernandez gaining on Castro, who led earlier this year.

The yield on the country’s dollar bonds due in 2024 rose 2 basis points, or 0.02 percentage point, to 9.17 percent at 2:24 p.m. local time.

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