The two top vote-getters in Afghanistan’s presidential election alleged widespread fraud and other irregularities in the April 5 vote, with the leading contender saying he could still emerge as victor without a runoff once all the complaints are adjudicated. Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah, President Hamid Karzai’s main rival in the 2009 election, is leading with 44.9% of the vote, according to preliminary results released by the Independent Election Commission on Saturday. His nearest opponent, former Finance Minister Ashraf Ghani, received 31.5%. If these preliminary results hold and Mr. Abdullah doesn’t manage to cross the 50% mark once all the fraud allegations are examined, a runoff between the two men is expected to be held in early June. Mr. Abdullah rejected that prospect, and said on Sunday he believes he will emerge with an absolute majority if his complaints are properly addressed. “Nobody can claim that the election has gone or will go to the second round,” he said. “Our assessment and our documents clearly show a victory for our team.”
Mr. Abdullah said that fraud, a shortage of ballots in parts of the country on election day, and the exclusion of hundreds of thousands of votes from the counting process have influenced the IEC’s tally. “We have done our best to respect and defend the votes of the Afghan people,” said IEC Chairman Yusuf Nuristani.
President Hamid Karzai wasn’t allowed to run in the election, having already served two terms. His successor faces a challenging mandate: to maintain security as U.S.-led troops leave at the end of the year while trying to reach a peace deal with the Taliban insurgency.
If elected, Messrs. Abdullah and Ghani have both said they would immediately sign a long-term security deal with Washington. Mr. Karzai has refused to sign a bilateral security agreement that would allow a small number of U.S. troops focused on counterterrorism and on training Afghan forces to stay in Afghanistan after December 2014, when the current mission ends.