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Abdullah cushions lead in Afghan poll

Further official results have been released following Afghanistan's presidential election on April 5. Former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah has increased his lead, but a runoff vote is still considered likely.

Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission released further partial poll results on Sunday, representing about half of the

votes cast on April 5

. Abdullah Abdullah (pictured right), who ran against incumbent president Hamid Karzai in the country's last election in 2009, currently has the lead with 44 percent of the votes counted.

Abdullah was a former foreign minister under Karzai, who was not eligible to run again. Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai (pictured left), a former finance minister and World Bank official, is currently in second with just over 33 percent of the vote.

Should Abdullah fail to obtain a majority of 50 percent, the presidential race will enter a runoff election between the top two candidates. Total final results of the first round are expected on May 14. A runoff is tentatively scheduled for May 28.

The

first tally

, representing ten percent of the vote, was announced last week. Abdullah strengthened his lead in Sunday's latest election results.

The winner of the election will take the helm of a country looking to take more control of its own affairs, with NATO troops that have been stationed in the country for over ten years set to leave by the end of 2014. Despite US-led forces toppling the Taliban in 2001, Taliban militants are still a threat to peace and security in Afghanistan.

mz/kms (Reuters, AP, AFP, dpa)

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