Tuesday, 22 April 2014 00:25
REUTERS: Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah’s lead in the Afghan presidential race has widened, the latest official tally of votes released on Sunday showed, although half of the votes have yet to be counted.
Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission said initial results based on almost 50% of the vote out of the total 34 provinces showed Abdullah in the lead with 44.4%, followed by ex-world bank official Ashraf Ghani with 33.2% of the votes it said were not fraudulent.
“The lead we were expecting, it didn’t come as a surprise, but perhaps we were expecting a bigger lead,” Abdullah told Reuters in an interview at his home in Kabul. “We are still hoping the elections will be completed in the first round.”
To win, a candidate must secure more than 50% of valid ballots. Failing that, the top two candidates go into a run-off. Final results are due on 14 May, and a run-off, if needed, will take place in late May.
A run-off is seen as a risky proposition in Afghanistan, given security concerns, the prospect of a low turnout and the cost - the bill for the first round was put at more than $ 100 million.
But Abdullah dismissed the idea of deal-making to avoid another round of voting.
“The idea of coalition building in order to avoid a second round is not on the agenda, at least we are not intending to enter that track,” he said. “The people of Afghanistan deserve to have a clear outcome.”
He said he had spoken with Zalmay Rassoul, running in third place with nearly 11% of the vote, as the likelihood rises of them joining forces to defeat Ghani in a second round.
Hamid Karzai was constitutionally bound to step down as president after more than 12 years in power, at a time when Afghanistan readies to stand on its own feet as most Western troops prepare to leave the country by the end of the year.
Western powers are watching the process intently after a messy presidential election in 2009 resulted in allegations of mass fraud and ballot stuffing.