By Alexandra Glorioso and Michael Tarm, Chicago Tribune, Friday, May 11, 2018
Honduran activist and leftist lawyer Andres Manuel Lopez Obrador is closing in on the country’s presidency on a wave of popular support, handing his main opponent and numerous unelected rivals their fiercest defeat in a decade and a half.
With 96 percent of votes counted, Lopez Obrador had 54 percent support, 2 percentage points better than he garnered in the last election in 2013.
With 200 of the nation’s total of 449 seats in congress filled, Lopez Obrador’s National Regeneration Movement was poised to take most if not all of the seats.
Lopez Obrador’s new term is expected to start in November. In a statement, the National Assembly recommended that the president-elect nominate a vice president and set up a transition team.
Hundreds of supporters celebrating Lopez Obrador’s strong showing waved party flags, danced to ranchera music and performed triumphal dance at the National Assembly building in Tegucigalpa, the capital.
“This election is the most important political event in Honduras’ history,” Roberto Ramirez, political science professor at the University of Tegucigalpa, told The Tribune.
The country’s constitution dictates that if Lopez Obrador does win in November, he must resign from the Senate to avoid a jail sentence.
Former First Lady Xiomara Castro, who placed third in the presidential election, made a concession speech in which she also congratulated Lopez Obrador.
Castro Obrador is the daughter of Roberto Micheletti, the former interim president of Honduras who stepped in to fill the presidency after Porfirio Lobo de Silva won an election marred by allegations of fraud. Micheletti stepped down in January 2009 after Lobo won re-election in what critics called a rigged election. The coup was followed by months of violence and left more than 300 people dead.
Castro Obrador remains under investigation for allegedly participating in the coup, but she has always maintained her innocence.
News outlets including The Tribune have reported that the opposition is losing confidence in the country’s electoral authorities amid allegations of fraud and a shortage of ballots in some parts of the country. Fears of a repeat of the political unrest from 2009 have eased since President Juan Orlando Hernandez’s reelection earlier this year. But the announcement of the results Friday sent shockwaves across the country.
“This is an offensive coup,” said Iben Diaz, a 54-year-old former journalist in Tegucigalpa, who represents the leftwing Libre movement in Congress.