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Opposition wants re-do of Honduras elections amid protests

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Opposition wants re-do of Honduras elections amid protests

The Associated Press
Anti-government protestors shout slogans during a government imposed dawn-to-dusk curfew in Tegucigalpa, Honduras, late Saturday, Dec. 2, 2017. Opposition leaders have called for a mass march against the purported election fraud on Sunday and for the presidential election to be held again after the country erupted in deadly protests over the delayed vote count. (AP Photo/Rodrigo Abd)

Residents of Honduras' capital were bracing for more demonstrations Sunday after a night of pot-banging protests over the long-delayed vote count in last week's presidential elections.

The sound of bottle-rockets, clanging pots and chants echoed through Tegucigalpa late Saturday, and the opposition planned new protests against alleged vote fraud against opposition candidate Salvador Nasralla, who is calling for a re-do of the election.

President Juan Orlando Hernandez leads the partial vote count and his government has imposed a 10-day curfew of 6 p.m. to 6 a.m. to quell continuing demonstrations. On Saturday, the curfew was dropped for the country's two main tourist areas, the Bay Islands and the Mayan ruins of Copan.

Clashes between protesters and troops have killed at least one person, and perhaps as many as a half-dozen.

Both Hernandez and Nasralla, a television personality, have claimed victory in the Nov. 26 vote. Nasralla had been leading in the count until a lengthy delay interrupted reports from electoral officials, feeding opposition complaints of irregularities. Officials blamed the pause on technical problems and denied any manipulation.

"I have asked them to repeat the elections, but only those for the presidency, with the aim of resolving the crisis that Honduras is suffering," Nasralla told The Associated Press.

He said a new election "would be under the supervision of an international electoral tribunal, not the local one, because there aren't sufficient conditions to guarantee" the vote would be fair. Asked what response he got from the government to the proposal, Nasralla said, "They haven't responded and I don't think they will."

Honduras' national police force said a 19-year-old woman was shot to death overnight at a pro-Nasralla protest by gunmen who witnesses say were police. The national police force said it was investigating the attack. Witnesses and opposition activists claim at least five others have been killed at protests nationwide.

On Saturday, the government of Mexico urged Honduras to bring in international observers for the vote count, which has been essentially frozen because Nasralla's supporters want far more ballot boxes recounted than what the country's electoral tribunal has offered.

The country's electoral court had finished counting nearly 95 percent of the ballot boxes from the Nov. 26 presidential election by late Friday and said it would conduct a hand count of 1,031 other boxes that presented "inconsistencies."

Hernandez held a lead of more than 46,000 votes over Nasralla before the last-stage count. It was not immediately clear how many votes could be at play in the uncounted boxes.

The protests were reminiscent of those following the 2009 coup that ousted former President Manuel Zelaya, whose Libre party is part of (the key partner in?) the coalition led by Nasralla that formed in a bid to unseat Hernandez.

Officials said Zelaya was ousted for considering re-election, which is against Honduras' constitution. But the country's top court later threw out that prohibition so that Hernandez could seek a second term.

Rock-wielding protesters have increasingly taken to the streets against riot police armed with tear gas, batons and water cannons. Groups of demonstrators also continued blocking highways with burning tires and other debris.

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