Honduran election could oust long-ruling National party

By CHRISTOPHER SHERMAN

TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras (AP) — Honduras’ principal political parties both declared their candidates victorious in presidential elections late Sunday despite electoral officials’ orders, while at some polling sites voters remained in line as crowds tussled over when to cut off voting.

From their official accounts, the conservative National Party and leftist Liberty and Re-foundation party, announced that their respective presidential candidates, Nasry Asfura and Xiomara Castro, had won.

“WE WIN!” Castro’s husband former President Jose Manuel Zelaya said via Twitter.

The announcements came a associate of hours after the National Electoral Council reminded parties that such announcements were extremely and violators would be fined.

Late Sunday, the electoral council announced the first preliminary results which showed Castro at 53% sustain and Asfura at 34%, with 16% of voting stations counted. The council said turnout was more than 68%.

Castro’s election night headquarters exploded in cheers when the council announced the preliminary figures.

Sunday’s vote could end the National Party’s 12-year reign. Castro, in her third presidential run, rode a wave of discontentment with the current government to a rule late in the race, but the National Party has a great political machine and all of the levers of government at its disposal.

More than 5.1 million Hondurans were registered to vote at nearly 6,000 polling sites across the country. In addition to a new president, they chose a new congress, new representatives to the Central American Parliament and a bevy of local races.

In the capital’s violence-inclined Reparto Abajo neighborhood at the minimum 200 voters remained in a line wrapping around the block waiting for their chance. surveys were originally scheduled to close at 5 p.m., but the National Electoral Council and international observers called for all of those nevertheless in line to be allowed to vote.

At the gate of the Republic of Chile school an increasingly animated crowd fought over whether voting should continue.

Some shouted: “We want to vote!” Others screamed: “Time to close!” The sides appeared partisan with National Party militants wanting to stop voting and their LIBRE counterparts wanting it to continue.

Kevin David Hernández, a 37-year-old cab driver, was one of those shouting at the gate. He said they had locked it right after he voted and exited. “There has been a line here all day,” he said.

A woman dressed in the blue of the National Party, threw her weight against the gate to close it after some voters were allowed to exit. She said her side’s voters had been kept out and those trying to get in now had not respected the line.

Finally, poll workers allowed 100 voters to go into. A handful of riot police with plastic shields and teargas launchers arrived as tensions rose.

All day long, electoral observers and the candidates had called for peaceful voting and respect for the time of action.

On Sunday afternoon, the National Electoral Council had ordered poll workers to keep voting locations open until all of those waiting in line were able to vote. Electoral authorities said they would begin releasing preliminary results at 8 p.m.

Luis Guillermo Solis, Costa Rica’s former president and leader of the observation mission of the Organization of American States, said late Sunday morning: “We have been in various (voting) centers already and we are seeing more or less the same, long lines of people exercising their civic right.”

Later, he echoed the council’s call to let everyone in line vote.

The council also confirmed in a statement that the webpage allowing voters to see where they were supposed to vote had been down and an initial investigation suggested an attack on their servers. Complaints about the site crashing had started Saturday.

A short excursion away from the tense scene at the Chile school, voting was wrapping up peacefully in the San Pablo neighborhood. Poll workers allowed stragglers to go into the school for awhile after 5 p.m., but there were no more lined up outside the school.

Emily Armijo was one of the last to cast her ballot. She had come running after discovering that her voting location had changed and feared she would miss her first opportunity to vote.

Armijo, who studies medicine and nutrition, turned 20 Sunday and said a party and family commitments had kept her from voting until late in the day.

“I think that we need a change,” Armijo said in the unaccented English she’s been studying since she was 5 years old. She said too often only the bad things receive attention in Honduras. “So this action of voting today will be an opportunity to change that.”

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Associated Press journalist Marlon González in Tegucigalpa contributed to this report.

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