August 22, 2009 in Nation/World

Top 2 Afghan candidates confident

Karzai, Abdullah make claims, but no official results yet
Associated Press
 
Associated Press photo

An Afghan election commission office worker unloads ballot boxes to be counted in Kandahar province on Friday.
(Full-size photo)

KABUL, Afghanistan – Both main candidates for Afghan president claimed to be ahead Friday after an election marred by violence, spotty turnout and fraud allegations – threatening U.S. hopes for Afghans to come together to combat the challenges of Taliban insurgency, corruption and poverty.

President Hamid Karzai’s campaign insisted he would have enough votes to avoid a runoff with his chief challenger, Abdullah Abdullah, a former foreign minister. Abdullah countered that he was leading but suspected there would be a runoff.

Election officials called on the candidates to refrain from such claims, which could delay formation of a new government. Officials of Afghan and international monitoring teams agreed that it was too early to say who won or to know whether fraud was extensive enough to influence the outcome.

Millions of Afghans voted Thursday in the country’s second-ever direct presidential election, although Taliban threats held down the turnout, especially in the militant south where Karzai was expected to run strong among his fellow Pashtuns. Insurgent attacks claimed more than two dozen lives.

Partial preliminary results won’t be released by the election commission before Tuesday, with final official returns due in early September. Officials count ballots at voting centers around the country and then send the figures to Kabul, where they are tabulated, verified and announced.

Nevertheless, the absence of official figures didn’t dissuade supporters of the two leading candidates from issuing their own claims, which they said were based on reports from their representatives at the counting centers.

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