TEGUCIGALPA – Hondurans must prevent President Juan Orlando Hernandez from being sworn-in for a second term on Jan. 27, opposition leader Salvador Nasralla said on Friday at a protest that was later broken up by police.
“We will stop him from taking possession the 27th, also we must stop the installation of the National Congress,” Nasralla said during a march against what he and his supporters describe as fraud in the November presidential election.
Nasralla, a former sportscaster, ran for president as the candidate of the center-left Alliance of Opposition to the Dictatorship.
Friday’s march in Tegucigalpa was peaceful until the procession neared the presidential palace, when soldiers and police confronted the participants, sparking a battle that went on for more than an hour.
While Nasralla apparently withdrew when the clash began, the Alliance’s general secretary, ousted President Mel Zelaya, remained on the street.
At one point, Zelaya approached the police with his hands in the air, but was overcome by tear-gas fumes and was escorted away by other marchers.
Security forces also deployed water-cannon against a crowd that included families with young children and people in wheelchairs.
A team from UneTV trying to cover the event were forced to leave by police and the channel’s broadcast signal subsequently went dead for several minutes.
Both Hernandez and Nasralla claimed victory hours after the polls closed on Nov. 26.
While the first partial results issued by the TSE election court showed Nasralla with what officials described as an “irreversible” lead, an interruption in the tabulation was followed by the release of figures giving Hernandez the advantage.
On Dec. 17, the TSE proclaimed the right-wing incumbent the winner with 42.95 percent of the vote, compared with 41.24 percent for Nasralla.
Five days later, the US State Department congratulated Hernandez on his victory, while also acknowledging “irregularities” in the process, as pointed out by election observers from the Organization of American States and the European Union.
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.
The pretext for the 2009 coup against Zelaya in 2009 was that his call for a non-binding referendum on constitutional reform was a gambit aimed at allowing him to seek re-election, though any such change could not have taken effect in time for him to run in that year’s presidential election.