WASHINGTON – The US government extended congratulations on Friday to Honduran President Juan Orlando Hernandez for his victory in an election marred by “irregularities.”
“We congratulate President Juan Orlando Hernandez on his victory in the November 26 presidential elections, as declared by the Honduran Supreme Electoral Tribunal (TSE),” the State Department said.
At the same time, department spokesperson Heather Nauert acknowledged the problems surrounding the process, which have been pointed out by election observers from the Organization of American States and the European Union.
“The close election results, irregularities identified by the OAS and the EU election observation missions, and strong reactions from Hondurans across the political spectrum underscore the need for a robust national dialogue,” Nauert said in a written statement.
“A significant long-term effort to heal the political divide in the country and enact much-needed electoral reforms should be undertaken,” she said.
The State Department also called on the TSE to give a full and fair hearing to challenges, while urging Honduran security forces to “respect the rights of peaceful protesters.”
The OAS secretary-general, Luis Almagro, has already proposed that Honduras hold new elections, given the “impossibility” of providing a credible final count, and Human Rights Watch spoke out last week about “strong indications of election fraud” in Honduras.
Both Hernandez and his main challenger, well-known former sportscaster Salvador Nasralla, claimed victory hours after the polls closed on Nov. 26.
While the first partial results issued by the TSE showed Nasralla in the lead, an interruption in the tabulation was followed by the release of figures giving Hernandez the advantage.
Last Sunday, the TSE proclaimed the right-wing incumbent the winner with 42.95 percent of the vote, compared with 41.24 percent for Nasralla, the candidate of a center-left coalition.
The opposition refuses to recognize the result.
A score of people have been killed by security forces during post-election protests.
Hernandez’s re-election bid was controversial from the start, as the Honduran Constitution limits the president to one term.
His candidacy was permitted on the basis of a May 2015 ruling by five Supreme Court judges who owed their appointments to Hernandez.
In 2009, the Honduran military ousted left-leaning President Mel Zelaya based on accusations that his call for a non-binding referendum on constitutional reform was a gambit aimed at allowing him to seek re-election.