The two other frontrunners alleged serious fraud in the April 5
vote, which all being well will lead to Afghanistan's first
democratic transfer of power as incumbent Hamid Karzai prepares to
step down after more than 12 years in the office.
Trucks stacked with plastic ballot boxes began to trickle into the
capital on Monday, as officials prepared to open a center to tally
votes from across the rugged country.
Given the United State's plan to withdraw most of its troops by the
end of the year, the longer Afghanistan has to wait before a new
leader is installed the greater is the risk of instability either
from the Taliban insurgency, or rivalries between factions in a
country riven by ethnic and tribal fault lines.
"We are trying to start the process as soon as possible," said Noor
Mohammad Noor, a spokesman for the Independent Election Commission.
"It's a long process. It will take time."
If none of the candidates score over 50 percent it will take even
longer before a winner is declared, as there will be a second round
run off at the end of May at the earliest.
Preliminary results are not due until April 24, but a tour of Kabul
polling stations showed that Abdullah was firmly in the lead,
confirming the suave former anti-Soviet resistance fighter's
popularity in the capital.
Running second came Ashraf Ghani, a former World Bank official with
a programme of radical economic reform. Former finance minister
Ghani should score well in the north, as his running mate is Abdul
Rashid Dostum, a feared former warlord who holds sway over much of
Trailing in third was another former finance minister, Zalmai
Rassoul. He is believed to have Karzai's backing, and as a
consequence is expected to do better in the Pashtun-dominated south,
where the Karzai family has strengthened its influence over the
As part of Afghanistan's efforts to make the election more
transparent, polling stations at schools and offices across the
country post results on the door for the public to see.
At the Sayed Jamaluddin High school polling station in western
Kabul, for example, Abdullah had received 190 ballots, Ghani 23 and
The picture was similar at about a dozen other schools visited by
Reuters in the west and north of Kabul.
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Kabul accounts for at least 20 percent of Afghanistan's electoral
base, so a strong result in the capital could be key to deciding the
elections' outcome. There are 28,500 polling centres across
Rekindling memories of the mass fraud that marred the previous
presidential election in 2009, both Ghani and Rassoul said they had
received reports of violations and submitted them to the Election
Complaints Commission (ECC).
"There are reports of serious fraud in several locations but all is
documented and will be passed on to ECC for investigation," Ghani
posted on his Twitter account.
An aide for Rassoul said: "We have filed complaints." The extent of
the suspected fraud was not immediately clear and the ECC was
expected to take weeks to check the allegations.
International and Afghan leaders have praised the Saturday vote as a
success because of a higher than expected turnout — estimated at
about 60 percent — as well as the failure of the Taliban insurgents
to disrupt it significantly.
Although the Taliban failed to pull off major attacks on election
day itself, some people fear the insurgents are preparing to disrupt
the ballot-counting process. On Sunday, a roadside bomb killed two
election workers and a policeman and destroyed dozens of ballot
papers in northern Afghanistan.
(Additional reporting by Hamid Shalizi and Jessica Donati,
by Maria Golovnina; editing by Simon Cameron-Moore)
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