Written by By Natalie Palmer for CNN
After two months of election-related delays and controversy, Honduran voters have democratically returned President Juan Orlando Hernandez to power after he won the election on June 28 by a small margin.
Hernandez’s successful re-election garnered more than 50% of the votes against former Secretary of the interior, Salvador Nasralla, who gave up his presidential run and conceded defeat Wednesday night.
Despite the Haitian-style vote tally that made Honduras the most criticized election ever in Central America, Nasralla said that he would not challenge the outcome.
The tense election campaign had shaken the center-right country and saw polarized international opinion.
By conceding defeat, Nasralla ensured a peaceful transition of power and suspended a legal challenge filed to the electoral court.
Oscar Arias, the former UN special representative to the Organization of American States (OAS), said Wednesday night that he would no longer represent the OAS on the preliminary results of the vote recount, following Hernandez’s victory, effective immediately.
“The stakeholders, the people have a right to clear and public declarations,” he said.
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On June 28, Hernandez’s narrow victory over Nasralla, who has a strong support base in the poorer south of the country, was overshadowed by suspicions of an electoral fraud plot, resulting in one of the most unexpected — and controversial — elections in Central America in decades.
The ballot had been expected to see Hernandez, who began his political career as a lackey of former President Porfirio Lobo, contest a second term in office.
The vote counted by the opposition, where Nasralla was expected to give a considerable advantage to his own polling figure, was invalidated by electoral officials. Critics complained that the process was lacking transparency and many voters called for a recount.
Meanwhile, Hernandez said there had been widespread fraud, and the vote recount on July 31 returned his victory margin to 3% of the total votes cast.
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The election took place against a turbulent backdrop of economic turmoil, ongoing protests and political crises.
Honduras has been linked to the economic crisis in neighboring El Salvador and Nicaragua, as a mounting poverty in the country has contributed to growing drug-related violence and an impoverished population.
Hernandez announced last week that he would be traveling to Honduras, Panama and Mexico in August.
The three countries were the three former Central American states that sought the guidance of the OAS for sanctions against the criminal gangs and violence in the region.