Former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has the lead in Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election, according to a preliminary tally released Monday despite allegations of massive fraud. The announcement came as Ahmadzai is locked in a standoff with his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who has refused to accept any results until all fraudulent ballots are invalidated. The Independent Election Commission acknowledged that vote rigging had occurred and promised to launch a more extensive investigation before final results are released. “We cannot ignore that there were technical problems and fraud that took place during the election process,” the commission’s chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani said. “We are not denying fraud in the election, some governors and Afghan government officials were involved in fraud.”
The results showed that Ghani had about 4.5 million votes while Abdullah had 3.5 million votes, Nouristani said.
Abdullah, a former foreign minister who won the first round of voting on April 5 by a large margin, says his campaign monitors recorded ballot box stuffing and other irregularities, prompting him to suspend his cooperation with electoral officials. The European Union also expressed concern about “highly worrying indications of potentially widespread fraud.”
The preliminary results had been due on July 2 but were delayed by five days while officials said they would audit ballots from nearly 2,000 polling stations that had at least 599 votes.