Conservative's lead in Honduras presidential race 'irreversible': Official

TEGUCIGALPA (AFP) - The Honduran ruling Conservative party's presidential candidate is headed for victory, the electoral body said on Monday, heralding continuity in a country plagued by gang violence and poverty.

The vote count in the Central American country stood at 34.08 per cent for Juan Orlando Hernandez compared to 28.92 per cent for leftist Xiomara Castro, with 67 per cent of the votes counted.

"The outcome is decisive. The figures that we have reported reflect a trend that is irreversible. The outcome is not going to change," said Mr David Matamoros, head of the Supreme Electoral Tribunal, though Ms Castro earlier claimed victory herself.

Mr Matamoros did not declare a winner, however.

Mr Hernandez, a 45-year-old lawyer, and Mr Castro both declared victory after polls closed late on Sunday.

"The people have chosen. Now, let's get down to work," Mr Hernandez said Monday.

Political tension gripped Honduras throughout the day as the conservative candidate insisted he had won the presidential vote, while the leftist opposition rejected the result and threatened to take to the streets.

The clash between Mr Hernandez, of the National Party, and Ms Castro, of a party called Libre brought new uncertainty to a deeply troubled country, also reeling from the wounds of a 2009 coup.