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Run-off likely in Afghan presidential vote, early results show

Afghanistan will announce the full preliminary results of the presidential election on Saturday, with former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah in the lead with 43.8 percent but falling short of the 50 percent needed to avoid a run-off.


Abdullah's main rival, former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani, secured 32.9 percent with four-fifths of the ballots counted, according to partial results released on Thursday. 

If no candidate gains more than 50 percent, a second-round run-off between the two leading names is scheduled for May 28 to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who has ruled Afghanistan since the Taliban regime was ousted in 2001.

A spokeswoman for the Independent Election Commission told AFP that a press conference would be held Saturday to release the full preliminary results.

The final official result is set to be announced on May 14 after a period allocated for the adjudication of complaints.

Both Abdullah and Ghani have vowed to fight on if a run-off is required. A second-round vote could be avoided by negotiations between the candidates in the coming weeks, but Abdullah has dismissed talks of a possible power-sharing deal.

"We have not talked or negotiated with anyone about forming [a] coalition government," he told reporters after Thursday's results were released.

Eight men competed in the April 5 election, with polling day hailed a success by Afghan officials and foreign allies. The Taliban launched an attack on Kabul's election headquarters ahead of the vote but failed to mount a major attack during the election despite threatening to disrupt the vote.

Hundreds of fraud allegations are still being investigated, however.

The 2009 election that saw Karzai hold on to power was marred by fraud in a chaotic process that shook confidence in the multinational effort to aid Afghanistan and marked a sharp decline in relations with the United States.

Turnout from this month's poll is set to be nearly seven million voters from an estimated electorate of 13.5 million – well above the 2009 figure.

The eventual winner will have to oversee the fight against a resilient Taliban insurgency as 51,000 US-led NATO combat troops leave Afghanistan at the end of this year.

Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from serving a third term, pledged to stay neutral in the election. But he was widely thought to have backed former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul, who took just 11 percent of the vote according to the partial count.

(FRANCE 24 with AFP)

In pictures: Afghans go to the polls
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