World Bulletin/News Desk
The Afghanistan presidential election is poised to go to a run-off after the latest tally of votes released on Thursday showed neither former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah nor former finance minister Ashraf Ghani securing an outright majority.
The Independent Election Commission said preliminary results based on 82.6 percent of the vote from the 34 provinces showed Abdullah in the lead with 43.8 percent, followed by Ghani with 32.9 percent.
To win, a candidate must secure more than 50 percent of valid ballots. Failing that, the top two candidates go into a run-off. Final results are due on May 14, and a run-off, if needed will take place in late May.
Afghanistan's allies hailed the April 5 vote a success because of the high turnout, and the failure of Taliban militants to stage any big attacks on polling day. But evidence has subsequently emerged of widespread fraud.
The two frontrunners, who both held high-profile ministerial positions in Karzai's first administration, have dismissed talk of a deal to avoid a second round, saying such a move would be unlawful.
A run-off is seen as a risky proposition in Afghanistan, given the security concerns, the prospect of a low turnout and the cost - the bill for the first round was put at more than $100 million.
As it has become clear there would be no outright winner, the candidates have started horse-trading in a bid to secure votes going into the likely second round.
Abdullah, a trained ophthalmologist turned anti-Soviet resistance fighter, has reached out to Zalmay Rassoul, also a one-time foreign minister.
Access to Rassoul's support base is seen as crucial as he known to have the backing of the Karzai family. The outgoing president will retain his influence at the top levels of power. Ghani and Abdullah say they will reserve him a place on their team as an advisor.
Rassoul is from the majority Pashtun community while Abdullah's base of support is in the ethnic Tajik community, although he is half-Pashtun.
Abdullah was an adviser to the late guerrilla leader Ahmad Shah Masood, and then foreign minister of the United Front - better known internationally as the Northern Alliance - from 1998. After Masood's assassination in 2001 he became a dominant figure in the alliance that helped U.S. forces topple the Taliban.
The election commission's result sheet on Thursday showed Abdullah in the lead with 43.8 percent, followed by Ghani with 32.9 percent. Rassoul was a distant third with 11.1 percent.Last Mod: 24 Nisan 2014, 17:37