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European observers criticize silence on Honduras election

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European observers criticize silence on Honduras election

The Associated Press
Opposition Alliance presidential candidate Salvador Nasralla greets supporters in front of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, Monday, Nov. 27, 2017. Early results from Honduras' presidential election Monday showed Nasralla with a surprise lead over incumbent President Juan Orlando Hernandez, both of whom had claimed victory. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

A European Union electoral observation mission criticized Honduras' electoral court Tuesday for its lack of communication about the results from the weekend presidential election.

The team's preliminary report said that voting Sunday was generally peaceful and that results were being processed in front of party representatives. But it also noted that while the electoral court made five announcements of preliminary results following the 2013 election, it had made just one this time.

The mission said citizens have a right to more frequent communication.

"It is urgent that the results be disclosed," said Marisa Matias, head of the EU mission. "The communication from authorities with their people must be more fluid."

By late afternoon, preliminary results based on a tally of about 63 percent of the ballots kept challenger Salvador Nasralla in the lead, about four points ahead of President Juan Orlando Hernandez.

Both have declared themselves the winner, but the electoral court said final results would not be announced until Thursday.

David Matamoros, head of the electoral court, said Tuesday that there were still 2.4 million ballots to process. He blamed the delay on the materials used in the vote, which are being transported by military trucks from 400 remote areas across the country.

"It is hoped that they arrive in the next few hours to begin immediate processing," he said.

College student Julian Martinez expressed the frustration and growing suspicions of many Hondurans. "We should know who the new president is by now and we don't because of the manipulation of the political operatives," he said.

The EU mission's report noted that the electoral court was not generally seen as neutral because new opposition parties had little or no representation.

The mission also said that paid advertising in the run-up to the election heavily favored Hernandez and that there was often confusion among voters about whether goods and services accessed through government social programs were coming from the government or Hernandez's National Party.

In a statement, Nasralla's political alliance accused the electoral court of favoring the Hernandez government and said it "is no longer a guarantee of democratic and transparent elections due to the fact that it lacks independence and impartiality."

U.S. Rep. Eliot L. Engel, a Democrat from New York, said he had been following the Honduran election closely and was very concerned by "a variety of troubling reports, including those on the lack of transparency" from the electoral court.

"I urge the (court) to demonstrate its willingness to uphold the principles and values enshrined in the Inter-American Democratic Charter," Engel said in a statement.

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Associated Press writer Christopher Sherman in Mexico City contributed to this report.

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