Afghanistan is set to announce preliminary presidential election results on Saturday, with former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah ahead in early counting but below the 50-per cent vote required to avoid a run-off.
Abdullah secured 43.8 per cent of the vote, with his main rival Ashraf Ghani on 32.9 per cent, after four-fifths of ballots were counted, according to partial results released on Thursday.
The Independent Election Commission (IEC) said a press conference to release the full preliminary results was scheduled for 6:00 pm local time.
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The final official result is set to be announced on May 14 after a period for adjudication of hundreds of complaints over alleged fraud.
If no candidate gains more than 50 per cent, a run-off between the two leading names is scheduled for May 28. Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, head of the IEC, has predicted that a second round vote would be likely.
Both Abdullah and Ghani, a former World Bank economist, have vowed to fight on if a run-off is required. Another expensive and potentially violent election 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 of a coalition government,” he told reporters after Thursday’s batch of results.
Eight men ran in the April 5 election, with polling day hailed a success by Afghan officials and foreign allies as the Taliban failed to launch a major attack despite threats to disrupt the vote.
Serious fraud allegations are being investigated after the vote to choose a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who has ruled Afghanistan since the Islamist Taliban regime was ousted in 2001. The 2009 election, when Karzai retained power, was marred by fraud in a chaotic process that shook confidence in the multinational effort to develop Afghanistan and also marked a sharp decline in relations with the United States.
Votes involved in alleged ballot-box stuffing and other cheating have not been counted, and Saturday’s announcement is expected to be followed by fierce debate over disputed voting papers.
Preliminary results were delayed by two days due to fraud investigations, with officials vowing to sift out all suspect votes before they were counted.