KABUL: Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah retained a clear lead in the latest Afghan presidential election results released yesterday, 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 run-off 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 said.
Both Abdullah and Ghani, a former World Bank economist, have vowed to fight on. But a run-off election could be avoided by negotiations between the candidates in the coming weeks.
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 tomorrow before the final official result is announced on May 14 after a period for adjudication of complaints.
Hundreds of serious fraud allegations are being investigated after the vote for a successor to Hamid Karzai, who has ruled Afghanistan since the Islamist Taliban regime was ousted in 2001.
Karzai, who is constitutionally barred from serving a third term, pledged to stay neutral in the election.