Honduras election tribunal says to hold partial re-count in presidential vote

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TEGUCIGALPA (Reuters) - Honduras’ election tribunal will re-count 4,753 ballot boxes that have cast a shadow on the results of the country’s presidential election, the tribunal chief said on Thursday, bowing to a demand by the Organization of American States (OAS).

Nearly two weeks since Honduras’ Nov. 26 presidential election, the result remains unknown, with allegations of electoral fraud sparking protests and a chorus of international concern over events in the poor Central American nation.

Official results showed Honduras’ conservative President Juan Orlando Hernandez with a narrow 1.6 percentage point lead over center-left opposition leader Salvador Nasralla. However, no victor has yet been declared by the election tribunal.

The tribunal declared Nasralla the leader in an announcement on the morning after the vote, with just over half of the ballot boxes counted. However, it gave no further updates for about 36 hours. Once results then started flowing again, Nasralla’s lead quickly started narrowing.

On Thursday, after meeting with the United States’ top diplomat in Honduras and the OAS country representative, tribunal chief David Matamoros said there would be a re-count of ballot boxes that arrived after the 36-hour pause, and which the opposition has claimed are tainted.

“This is a process we want to undertake in front of the eyes of the world, and we want to invite civil society,” Matamoros said at a press conference in the capital, Tegucigalpa.

The OAS, which on Wednesday said it may call for new Honduran elections if “irregularities” undermine the credibility of results, had previously called for a recount of those 4,753 ballot boxes.

It remains to be seen if the opposition will accept the tribunal’s offer. Nasralla on Wednesday evening called for an international arbiter to oversee a recount of the entire 18,000-odd ballot boxes, saying he no longer recognized the Honduran tribunal because of its role in the process.

Separately, Honduras’ security ministry said on Thursday it was removing the curfew from three more departments, meaning only six of the country’s 18 departments are still under curfew.

Reporting by Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Michael Perry