After a day of relatively trouble-free voting in a tight race, Honduras appeared headed for a new political showdown late Sunday, as competing presidential candidates began claiming victory with less than half of the ballots counted. Leftist Xiomara Castro de Zelaya, the wife of deposed former president Manuel “Mel” Zelaya, declared herself the “new president of Honduras” even as preliminary tallies showed her conservative rival, Juan Orlando Hernández, with a lead of at least five percentage points over Castro, followed by six other candidates. Hernández told his supporters that he was the country’s new leader and that he was already receiving calls from several Latin American heads of state to congratulate him. The vote count was expected to stretch late into the night, with many here anxious that a close, contested election could toss the troubled country askew once more.
The tense evening followed a day of balloting that international observers said was largely without incident or irregularities. “Everything was calm,” Enrique Correa, the chief of mission from the Organization of American States, said in an interview. “There were no signs of fraud.”
Turnout appeared high, with many coming out to vote with hopes for widespread change in one of the hemisphere’s poorest and most violent nations.