Afghan President Karzai looks set to be headed for victory in preliminary results from last month's disputed poll released Saturday. But complaints of fraud, which have sparked concerns in the West, refuse to die down.
Partial election results put Karzai in the lead, but observers say it's not over yet
In preliminary results announced Saturday, Afghan electoral authorities reported that incumbent President Hamid Karzai maintained his lead over his main rival Abdullah Abdullah with 54.3 percent of the vote. Abdullah, formerly Afghanistan's foreign minister, has 28.1 percent of the vote.
Fifty percent of the total votes plus one will be needed to win the election and avoid a runoff.
A spokesman for Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission, Daud Ali Najafi, told news agency AFP he was unsure when the full count of votes would be released.
"Tommorrow we will sit down with the ECC [Election Complaints Commission] and see when we can announce the final results," Najafi said.
The IEC said the results included 95 percent of all votes cast, with votes from 92.8 percent of the polling stations counted. About five percent of the total votes remain uncounted, and the remaining number have been quarantined while the Election Complaints Commission investigates possible fraud.
Of the 5.8 million valid votes, Karzai had 3,009,559. Abdullah had 1,558,591.
EU official slams "widespread fraud"
Allegations of ballot stuffing, voter intimidation, and other fraud have been rampant in the country's election. Very low turnout could also affect the election's legitimacy, with estimates that as few as 30 percent of the country's eligible voters participated.
This week, German European Union observer Gunter Mulack condemned "really widespread fraud" in the elections, citing implausibly high numbers of votes for a single candidate at some voting stations, and more ballots than likely voters at others. The EU has cautioned candidates against declaring victory before the final results are released.
But observers representing the United States and United Kingdom have expressed hope that a fair outcome can still be salvaged from the results. The US special envoy to Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke has said that a do-over of the election is "not a viable option."
Presidential contender Abdullah Abdullah has accused Karzai of fraudulently engineering a win
Afghanistan's Electoral Complaints Commmission announced this week it had found "clear and convincing evidence of fraud" in 83 polling stations in three provinces, and invalidated all of the ballots collected there. Most of the questionable ballots came from areas known as strongholds for incumbent President Hamid Karzai, who hails from the southern province of Kandahar.
The commission's investigations in Ghazni discovered unfolded ballots, missing material, and voter lists with ficticious card numbers - all indications of fraud.
Editor: Sonia Phalnikar