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Afghanistan: Abdullah ahead in election race

(Kabul) New partial results in Afghanistan’s presidential election show candidate Abdullah Abdullah is still the front-runner.

The winner will replace Hamid Karzai, the only president the country has known since the 2001 US-led invasion ousted the Taliban, and will oversee a tumultuous period during which the US and Nato forces are expected to withdraw most of their troops from the country.

Both Mr Abdullah, and his closest competitor, Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, have promised a fresh start with the West and have vowed to sign a security pact with the US that Mr Karzai refused to sign.

The chairman of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission, Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani, announced the latest results today. They represent about half of the estimated 7 million ballots cast in the April 5 poll, though varying levels of votes have been counted in the country’s 34 provinces.

Mr Abdullah, Karzai’s top rival in the country’s last election, has 44% of the vote tallied. Mr Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank official, received 33.2% of the vote.

Mr Abdullah, speaking shortly after the results were announced, said he still thinks it’s possible for him to avoid a run-off altogether but said he was ready for a second round.

“For us, we will accept the outcome of a fair and transparent process. Anything short of that will be problematic,” he said. “It’s important that the process is a free and fair one. Then if it goes to the second round in accordance to the rule of law, we are ready for that as well. At this stage, we believe that another round might not be needed.”

The results were a slight improvement for Mr Abdullah from the first results announced on April 13, but so far still not enough for him to avoid a run-off with Mr Ghani.

Final results are scheduled to be released on May 14.

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