Latin America & Caribbean

Honduras election: Hernandez and Castro both claim win

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Media captionHonduras faces an uncertain few hours, the BBC's Will Grant reports

Vote counting is taking place in Honduras, with both main presidential candidates claiming victory.

With more than half of votes declared, the conservative Juan Orlando Hernandez leads with about 34%, while Xiomara Castro has 28%, say election officials.

But Ms Castro, the wife of ousted ex-president Manuel Zelaya, told reporters that she has won.

Turnout was high, with millions of Hondurans voting for a new president, members of parliament and local mayors.

Around 5.4m Hondurans were registered to vote and authorities say there was a "massive turn-out".

Voting took place amid tight security, but no serious incidents were reported. Honduras has the highest murder rate in the world.

Mr Hernandez declared victory when 24% of votes had been announced. "Thank God and thank you to the Honduran people for this triumph," he posted on his Twitter page.

Image caption Conservative candidate Juan Orlando Hernandez backed the controversial removal of former President Manuel Zelaya

But Ms Castro also used her Twitter account to say she had won: "Based on the exit poll results that I have received from the whole country, I can tell you: I am the president of Honduras."

She is hoping to become the first female president of Honduras. "Today, we can say that we have won," Ms Castro told reporters.

David Matamoros, president of the electoral court, said final results were not expected until later on Monday.

"The preliminary results we have given so far do not show any tendency or declare any winner,'' he said.

Opinions polls had pointed to a close race between Ms Castro and Mr Hernandez.

Mr Hernandez, whose National Party backed the ousting of Mr Zelaya in 2009, has vowed to restore order with more soldiers and police on the streets.

Ms Castro has proposed a community police force to tackle local crime, with more soldiers deployed to the borders to combat drug trafficking.

Analysts say victory for Mr Hernandez would be a blow to Mr Zelaya, who has hoped to stage a comeback behind his wife.

Image copyright Reuters
Image caption Xiomara Castro - seen here alongside her husband, Manuel Zelaya - is bidding to be the first female president of Honduras

Mr Zelaya took office in 2006 but his interest in amending the constitution was interpreted by his opponents as a bid to seek a second term.

The Supreme Court, backed by Congress, ordered his removal from office and the military forced him out of the country.

Porfirio "Pepe" Lobo Sosa of the right-wing National Party won a November 2009 election organised by the interim authorities. Mr Lobo was sworn into office in January 2010 as Mr Zelaya went into exile.

The move, which plunged the country into political crisis, was denounced as a coup by US President Barack Obama and other foreign leaders.

Honduras is one of the poorest countries in Latin America. It also has the world's highest murder rate, averaging 20 killings a day.

Much of the violence is blamed on gang violence and drug traffickers.

Nearly 30,000 police and soldiers were deployed to ensure security during Sunday's elections.

A margin of just one vote is needed for a win - there is no run-off election.

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