TEGUCIGALPA (AFP) - Conservative Juan Orlando Hernandez claimed victory in Honduras's presidential vote on Sunday, citing official electoral board results.
"I will be the next president of Honduras. And I am going to do everything it takes to bring peace back to the people," Mr Hernandez told roaring supporters.
He said his claim was based on the electoral board's results showing him with 34.15 per cent of the vote, compared with 28.45 per cent for leftist Xiomara Castro.
However Ms Castro, the wife of Manuel Zelaya - deposed from office at gunpoint in a 2009 coup - had already declared victory.
"Today, we can say that we have won," a rejoicing Ms Castro told reporters.
On her Twitter account, Ms Castro said "based on exit polls that I have received from around the country, I can tell you: I am the president of Honduras".
Nine candidates in all were vying to succeed President Porfirio Lobo, who was elected after the coup in a controversial election boycotted by Zelaya's leftist allies.
Ms Castro, with the Libre Party, hopes to become the first female president of Honduras, the poorest country in the Americas after Haiti. An estimated 71 per cent of the population lives in poverty.
Her main rival, Speaker of the Legislature Hernandez from the ruling National Party, supported the 2009 coup. He is a law-and-order conservative who has vowed to bring order by flooding the streets with soldiers.
This message has resonance in this country of 8.5 million that records 20 murders a day - the highest rate in the world, according to United Nations figures.
Government institutions are so weak and the police so corrupt that Honduras is on the brink of becoming a failed state.