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Last Updated: Monday, 28 November 2005, 07:02 GMT
Opposition leads in Honduran poll
Election posters in Honduras for Manuel Zelaya (top) and Porfirio Lobo
The campaign has been hard-fought and occasionally bitter
Early results in Honduras' presidential election point towards victory for Liberal candidate Manuel Zelaya.

Mr Zelaya, with 51% of the vote, is leading lawyer Porfirio Lobo who has 45% support, according to the preliminary results.

Mr Lobo, of the ruling National Party, has refused to admit defeat.

Both candidates have vowed to cut crime in Honduras, which is wracked by gang violence, 30% unemployment and widespread poverty.

Election authorities cautioned that only a tiny number of ballots had been counted, with most results not yet available.

Sunday's vote was the seventh presidential election since 1981, when civilian rule was restored.

Earlier, a television exit poll also suggested a win for Mr Zelaya, giving him 50.6% of the vote compared with 44.3% for Mr Lobo.

"Honduras has today a new light of hope. Now comes an era of transparency and justice," Mr Zelaya told a news conference.

Presidential candidates Manuel Zelaya (l) and Porfirio Lobo
Mr Zelaya (l) hailed early results as a signal of victory
In an interview Mr Lobo insisted that his party had seen "different results" from the Liberals, and promised a close race.

Both right-wing leading candidates, who were neck-and-neck going into the polls, have pledged to crack down on gang violence.

Mr Zelaya, 53, is a civil engineer and rancher who has previously served as investment minister.

Mr Lobo, 57, is a former communist who has pledged to introduce the death penalty for crimes such as sexual assault, kidnapping and murder.

Three other candidates contested the election, but are not expected to draw widespread support.


Mr Lobo worked alongside current President Ricardo Madura to introduce penal code reform that has criminalised gang membership.

Members of the Mara Salvatrucha gang in prison
Thousands of gang members are in prison, but thousands are not
But there has been little let-up in the violence, with at least 45,000 gang members estimated to be operating inside Honduras.

The gangs grew out of Los Angeles and have become a fixture of life in Honduras. The most notorious group, the Mara Salvatrucha, is blamed for a bus massacre that killed 28 people in late 2004.

An estimated four million registered Honduran voters have also elected 298 mayors and 128 deputies to the single-chamber Congress.

Q&A: Honduras votes
24 Nov 05 |  Americas
Honduras ends election campaign
22 Nov 05 |  Americas
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27 Dec 04 |  Americas
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18 May 04 |  Americas
Country profile: Honduras
22 Nov 05 |  Country profiles
Timeline: Honduras
22 Nov 05 |  Country profiles

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