Ex-foreign minister in front in Afghan election; early results portend runoff

| Sunday, April 13, 2014, 6:39 p.m.

KABUL — In the first partial results from Afghanistan's presidential election, former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah has emerged as the early leader, but he is far from crossing the 50 percent vote threshold needed to win outright, according to the country's election commission.

Eight days after Afghans took to the polls, election officials are still counting votes and investigating claims of fraud. On Sunday, Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani, the chief of the Independent Election Commission, announced the first official results, based on about 10 percent of the votes from 26 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces.

Abdullah received 41.9 percent of those votes. The next closest candidate was Ashraf Ghani, a former finance minister and World Bank executive, with 37.6 percent. Zalmay Rassoul, a candidate who was considered the favorite of outgoing President Hamid Karzai, was running a distant third with 9.8 percent.

The results are far from definitive.

Nuristani said the totals represent more than 500,000 votes out of an estimated 7 million cast. In the next several days, officials intend to release the results piecemeal, with the final tally arriving next month.

If the early indications bear out, the next step would be a runoff between the top two finishers — Abdullah and Ghani — although Afghan and Western officials have raised the possibility that the candidates could make a deal among themselves and avoid a second round of voting.

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