Opposition demands a full recount of votes in a presidential election held a week ago that has triggered a crisis amid claims of fraud and street protests in Honduras.

Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and Salvador Nasralla, presidential candidate of the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship attend a news conference in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, December 4, 2017.
Former Honduran President Manuel Zelaya and Salvador Nasralla, presidential candidate of the Opposition Alliance Against the Dictatorship attend a news conference in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, December 4, 2017. (Reuters)

The Honduran opposition battling President Juan Orlando Hernandez over a disputed presidential election proposed on Tuesday that a run-off be held if authorities would not recount the entire vote.

TV star Salvador Nasralla, who claimed victory in the November 26 election after early results put him ahead of Hernandez, has been locked in a bitter row over the vote count since the process broke down and suddenly swung in the president's favour.

On Tuesday, Nasralla said on Twitter the electoral tribunal should review virtually all the voting cards.

"If you don't agree with that, let's go to a run-off between (Hernandez) and Salvador Nasralla," he said.

The demand, issued by opposition leader Manuel Zelaya, a former president, upped the ante in a struggle between Hernandez and Nasralla, to be named the victor.

Zelaya, who was ousted in a 2009 coup and now backs Nasralla, said on Twitter that the opposition was seeking a total recount of the vote, or legislation to permit a run-off, which is not used in Honduras.

The Supreme Electoral Authority ultimately said Hernandez won 42.98 percent, against 41.39 percent for Nasralla -- but refused to name a winner, saying appeals might challenge the result.

'A complete count' 

Nasralla's centre-left Alliance bloc previously demanded a recount of nearly a third of tally sheets, a request that was backed by the OAS and EU election observers. The Alliance is also expected to formally contest the results.

But after the Supreme Electoral Tribunal on Tuesday said it was willing to look at the opposition's documents for those polling stations, Zelaya called for a recount of ballots from all 18,000 polling stations.

"Our position is that there should be total checking between polling station records and the votes in the ballot box. Meaning open up the boxes, do a complete count to avoid any contamination" of the results, Zelaya told AFP.

The election was held under controversy because Hernandez was seeking re-election despite an explicit bar to more than one term in the constitution. 

'Irregularities and errors' in results

Authorities took a week to count votes in the nation of 9 million people, but the Organization of American States (OAS) said results were marked by irregularities and errors.

On Tuesday, the top official at the electoral tribunal, David Matamoros, invited the opposition to compare their copies of voter tally sheets with the official body's versions.

The tribunal would extend a deadline for legal challenges to Friday from Wednesday, said Matamoros.

Early last week, Nasralla appeared set for an upset victory, gaining a five-point lead with more than half of the ballots tallied.

The count halted for more than a day, and began leaning in favour of Hernandez after resuming. 

Violent protests

The dispute has sparked deadly protests and a night-time curfew in the poor, violent Central American country. 

On Monday, rebel police refused to crack down on demonstrations, urging the government to resolve the political deadlock.

Street protests in favour of Nasralla that began last week continued on Tuesday afternoon. Dozens of people, including police officers, gathered at the Tegucigalpa headquarters of Honduras' elite police force yelling "Out, JOH," referring to Hernandez's initials.

Hernandez, who has been praised by the United States for his crackdown on violent street gangs, claimed victory several times since the election, but did not make that claim in broadcast comments on Monday and Tuesday.

The EU, which also sent poll observers, urged calm and restraint while the process played out.

"It is essential that the electoral authorities remain open and responsive to possible appeals, including to a transparent re-counting process, if requested by candidates," the EU's external action service said in a statement.

Source: TRTWorld and agencies