In 2011, Juan Orlando Hernández, a conservative Honduran lawmaker who was serving as the president of Congress, sat for a televised interview. Two years earlier, Hernández’s National Party had pushed out then-President Manuel Zelaya ostensibly for proposing a referendum that would allow for presidential reelection. When asked on air whether Zelaya’s removal was illegitimate or constitutionally sanctioned, Hernández replied, “It was both.”
He could say the same now. It’s been over a week since presidential polls closed elections on November 26, and, amid allegations of electoral fraud, the country’s Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE) has yet to declare a winner. But Hernández—now president—seems set to officially win a second term, after he reversed what preliminary results suggested was an insurmountable lead by his main opponent, Salvador Nasralla, a businessman and former sportscaster. With the presidential votes now tallied, Hernández appears to have won by a margin of 52,000 votes, or by 1.6 percent of the popular vote. Nasralla, who is running under a broad anti-corruption platform, rejected the TSE’s results, and has called for a recount of over 5,000 polling stations. “I am the president-elect of Honduras, the president chosen by the people,” he said.
Nasralla has reason to doubt the results. By the morning of Monday, November 27, initial results showed Nasralla ahead of Hernández by five points, a lead so convincing that Marco Ramiros Lobo, an election official with the TSE, informed reporters later in the day that, with 70 percent of ballots counted, Nasralla’s lead was “irreversible.” By Tuesday evening, however, the TSE’s website showed that Nasralla’s lead had slipped to 3.3 percent, according to the BBC, and on Wednesday afternoon Hernández somehow edged ahead of Nasralla by less than one percentage point. Honduran voters, having witnessed Nasralla’s victory evaporate in real time, mobilized in Tegucigalpa to protest what they say was a rigged election. “They are taking us for fools, and they want to steal our victory,” Nasralla declared last week during a press conference.
For the past week, Nasralla’s supporters have taken to the streets, clashing with the country’s national police. Estimates suggest that at least 11 people have died and dozens have been injured in the violence. In response, the Honduran state declared a state of emergency and issued a 10-day nationwide curfew from 6 pm to 6 am. Locked in their homes, demonstrators continue to channel their frustrations through cacerolazos, a common form of loud, pot-banging protests in Latin America. Trumpets, loud clanking noises, fireworks, and more can be heard every night in Tegucigalpa and other cities.