Police in Honduras have violently clashed with the supporters of the main opposition presidential candidate, Salvador Nasralla, who has alleged that the vote results are being manipulated by his rival, incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez.
Nasralla’s supporters poured onto the streets on Thursday and remained outside the electoral court’s headquarters into the night after initial results showed Hernandez was leading by a narrow margin.
The electoral tribunal, which counts the ballots, announced the results following a five-hour delay, which it said was due to a computer glitch. The incident, however, overturned Nasralla’s lead by several thousand votes and prompted thousands of his supporters to pour onto the streets on Thursday and keep rallying into the night.
The demonstrators set up roadblocks and lit bonfires, while throwing rocks and pieces of wood at riot police. Police responded forcefully with tear gas and water cannons. Several people, including a policewoman and a soldier were injured during the clashes in the capital, Tegucigalpa, according to emergency services.
A police officer in the capital said they “will be on guard all night.” The Public Safety Department also warned that it would “peacefully clear out the protesters because they are blocking traffic.”
People, however, vowed to remain on the streets, with one university student saying, “We’re going to keep protesting and won’t let them steal this victory.”
Nasralla called on people via Twitter to continue to protest peacefully and not be provoked into committing violence.
Bracing for the street clashes, several schools and universities announced they would be closed through the weekend, and the Association of Banking Institutions recommended branches close Thursday afternoon.
Protests were also reported in at least eight other cities across the country.
While both Hernandez and his rival Nasralla have declared themselves the winner of the Sunday election, the European Union election monitor chief, Marisa Matias, said on Thursday that it is “too early” to proclaim a winner.
Nasralla, who signed an agreement with the Organization of American States to respect the official results, disavowed the agreement late Wednesday, saying it was a “trap.”
“I signed that document before the electoral court’s computing center went down, and that was a trap,” he said at a new conference. “The agreement with the OAS was to respect trustworthy results without alterations… and the court has altered the documents in the last two days. That is unacceptable.”
Nasralla was in the lead before an earlier 24-hour delay in the announcement of the results began. Once the announcement resumed, Nasralla saw his lead narrow down and then he fell behind Hernandez after the hour-long alleged computer glitch.