KABUL — Initial election results put Afghan opposition figure Abdullah Abdullah in the lead on Sunday, but with less than 10 percent of votes counted and widespread allegations of fraud, there was no clear indication of who would succeed Hamid Karzai.
Results based on 10 percent of votes from 26 out of 34 provinces showed Abdullah with 41.9 percent and Western-leaning academic Ashraf Ghani second with 37.6 percent. A third candidate, Zalmay Rassoul, backed by two of Karzai's brothers, trailed far behind with 9.8 percent.
"I want to make clear that the results could change in future, as we announce the results with additional percentages of the vote, and this is not the final result," said Independent Election Commission (IEC) chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani.
Afghanistan's allies praised the April 5 vote as a success because of a high turnout estimated at 60 percent of 12 million eligible voters and the failure of the Taliban to stage high-profile attacks.
But widespread fraud could undermine the legitimacy of an election meant to usher in Afghanistan's first democratic transfer of power, as Karzai steps down after more than 12 years in power and as Western forces prepare to leave.
HASHMATULLAH / AFP - Getty Images
In this photograph taken on April 5, 2014, Afghan Presidential Candidate Abdullah Abdullah shows his inked finger as he casts his vote at a local polling station in Kabul.
If no candidate secures more than 50 percent of valid ballots, the top two will go into a run-off.
Abdullah has said he had already discussed joining forces with other candidates for a run-off, including Rassoul.
"Our program will be to form an inclusive government ... We should use any capacity that exists in this country," Abdullah told Reuters on Sunday.
"So we are in contact not with just one candidate, but also other candidates and politicians in the country."
Ghani said it was far too early to talk about a victory for his rival as the partial results were not significant.
"We are in a 100-minute game and we have only done 10 minutes ... the result will change," he said.
The United Nations, which administers the fund that is paying for the election commission and the complaints body, said it was still too early to call the election.
"Until the final results are announced by the IEC, stakeholders should be careful in drawing premature conclusions so as not to create inaccurate expectations," said U.N. special envoy Jan Kubis.
First published April 13 2014, 10:34 AM