Afghan presidential election proceeds to second round

Neither of top candidates, Abdullah Abdullah or Ashraf Ghani, polled over 50% in first round

 Independent Election Commission  Chief Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani (centre) arrives at a press conference, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photograph: EPA

Independent Election Commission Chief Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani (centre) arrives at a press conference, in Kabul, Afghanistan. Photograph: EPA

 

The Afghan election is headed for a second round run-off in mid-June between Abdullah Abdullah, a former opposition leader, and ex-World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani, after final results showed no candidate had won an absolute majority. The run-off will be held on June 14th and the results will be announced on July 22nd.

The winner will be taking over the presidency at a crucial time, with most western forces due to withdraw from Afghanistan by the end of the year, the Taliban insurgency still raging, and an agreement with Washington for some US forces to stay on hanging in the balance.

Mr Abdullah, a former leader in the anti-Taliban Northern Alliance, scored 45 per cent of the vote in the first round held on April 5th, followed by Mr Ghani with 31.6 per cent, the Independent Election Commission said.

“As the none of the candidates got more than 50 per cent of the vote, the election goes to the second round,” the commission’s chief Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani said.

Former foreign minister Zalmai Rassoul, widely seen as incumbent President Hamid Karzai’s favoured candidate, finished a distant third with 11.4 per cent, but has since joined Mr Abdullah’s camp.

Mr Karzai was constitutionally barred from standing for a third term, having been first elected in 2004.


Ousted the Taliban
He earlier held the presidency for two years on an interim basis after Afghan forces backed by the US ousted the Taliban from power in late 2001.

Mr Abdullah ran against Mr Karzai in a 2009 election, having served as his foreign minister in the early years of his presidency, but pulled out of a run-off because of allegations of electoral fraud. He as been a vocal critic of Mr Karzai’s administration ever since.

Although the April 5th presidential election generated more complaints of serious fraud than in 2009, it is widely seen to have been a success because voter turnout was unexpectedly high and fewer votes were thrown out than last time.

About seven million of an eligible 12 million voters braved the threat of Taliban attacks to cast ballots in what will be the first democratic transition of power in their country’s history. – (Reuters)