AFGHANISTAN

Abdullah fraud claim delays final result in Afghanistan presidential poll

Frontrunner Abdullah says irregularities could have significant impact on outcome

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 15 May, 2014, 2:02am
UPDATED : Thursday, 15 May, 2014, 7:40pm
AFP

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Afghanistan's presidential election result was delayed yesterday over fraud investigations into the first round of voting to find a successor to Hamid Karzai.

Full results from the April 5 election were released late last month, but the final declaration will factor in the outcome of weeks of deliberation over fraud allegations.

In the preliminary results, none of the eight candidates gained more than 50 per cent of the vote, pointing to a second round run-off between the two top names as Afghanistan undergoes its first democratic transfer of power.

The contest would pit former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah, who took 44.9 per cent in the first vote, against former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani's 31.5 per cent.

Abdullah said yesterday his campaign had evidence of fraudulent voting that could have a "significant impact on final results".

The Independent Election Commission said it would release the results this morning.

The next president will lead Afghanistan into a new era as US-led combat troops withdraw by the end of the year.

Election officials have pencilled in June 14 for the run-off.

On Sunday, Abdullah received a major boost with the endorsement of third-placed Zalmai Rassoul, a close ally of President Karzai, who has stayed publicly neutral in the election.

Another costly, and potentially violent, election could be avoided by deal-making in the coming weeks - and Rassoul's support for Abdullah increased pressure on Ghani to concede.

The United Nations mission has welcomed Afghanistan's conduct of the vote but warned officials that they must address all fraud allegations openly.

The 2009 election, when Karzai retained power after defeating Abdullah, was marred by ballot-stuffing in a chaotic process that shook the multinational effort to develop the country after the Taliban's 1996-2001 regime.

The first-round election last month was hailed as a success, with turnout far better than in 2009 and the Taliban failing to launch a major attack despite threats to disrupt the vote.

A run-off vote at the height of the Taliban's "fighting season" is likely to prove more difficult for stretched security forces.

 

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