TEGUCIGALPA, Honduras — Conservative Juan Orlando Hernandez has all but won the hotly contested presidential race in Honduras, electoral authorities said late Monday, giving the National Party another four years governing this country plagued by violence and poverty.
The electoral court declared Hernandez's lead "irreversible" with about 68 percent of the votes counted from Sunday's election. Hernandez had 34 percent to 29 percent for Xiomara Castro, his closest opponent in an eight-candidate field.
"It's not the final result, but it's an irreversible trend," tribunal spokeswoman Lourdes Rosales said.
Castro's husband, former President Manuel Zelaya, was ousted in a 2009 coup that has left Honduras politically unstable, and poverty and violence have worsened over the last four years under outgoing President Porfirio Lobo.
Castro's candidacy was viewed as Zelaya's attempt to make a political comeback after being ousted with six months left in his term.
Zelaya said earlier in the day that their party would not accept the results showing Hernandez in the lead.
Castro, 54, had led the race for months while portraying herself as the candidate for change, promising relief from violence and poverty, and constitutional reform that would make the country more equitable.
In the closing weeks, however, Hernandez, 45, wiped out Castro's lead as he focused on a promise to bring law and order.
As president of Congress, Hernandez pushed through legislation creating a military police force to patrol the streets in place of the National Police, which are penetrated by corruption and often accused of extrajudicial killings.
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