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Abdullah in lead as Afghan election set for runoff

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah talks to an unseen journalist during an interview at his residence in Kabul, Afghanistan, Thursday, April 24, 2014.(AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini)

KABUL: Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah retained a clear lead in the latest Afghan presidential election results released Thursday, but he remained below the threshold needed for a decisive first-round victory.

Abdullah has secured 43.8 percent of the vote, with his main rival Ashraf Ghani on 32.9 percent, election officials said, after about 80 percent of ballots were counted.

If no candidate gains more than 50 percent, a second-round runoff between the two leading names is scheduled for May 28.

“With the percentage of votes [still to be counted], I suspect there will not be a winner in the first round, but I cannot say decisively,” Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani, head of the Independent Election Commission, told reporters. Both Abdullah and Ghani, a former World Bank economist, have vowed to fight on if a runoff is required.

A second-round vote could be avoided by negotiations between the candidates in the coming weeks, but Abdullah 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 the latest 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.

Full preliminary results are due Saturday before the final official result is announced on May 14 after a period for adjudication of complaints.

 
A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Daily Star on April 25, 2014, on page 11.

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