Karzai ri­val claims he has half of Afghan poll vote

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - WORLD -

KABUL: Afghan pres­i­dent Hamid Karzai’s chief ri­val Ab­dul­lah Ab­dul­lah said ini­tial elec­tion re­sults showed he had more than half of the vote needed to win in the first round and ac­cused Karzai’s camp of vote tam­per­ing.

Mil­lions of Afghans went to the polls on Thurs­day, de­fy­ing Tal­iban threats and spo­radic at­tacks to choose a pres­i­dent amid wors­en­ing vi­o­lence in only the sec­ond di­rect vote since the hard­line Is­lamists were over­thrown in late 2001.

Pre-elec­tion polls showed Karzai, in power since 2001, was likely to win but not by enough to avoid a run-off against Ab­dul­lah, his for­mer for­eign min­is­ter, who ran a sur­pris­ingly en­er­getic cam­paign.

If Karzai fails to win more than 50 per­cent of the vote he will face a run-off in Oc­to­ber.

“I’m ahead. Ini­tial re­sults from the prov­inces show that I have more than 50 per­cent of the vote,” Ab­dul­lah said yes­ter­day. “In some prov­inces it is well above 60 per­cent.”

Ear­lier yes­ter­day, Karzai’s cam­paign man­ager Deen Mo­ham­mad also claimed victory, say­ing ini­tial re­sults showed Karzai had a ma­jor­ity and that there was no need for a sec­ond round. An in­ter­view with Karzai could not be ar­ranged.

Many ob­servers have warned of pos­si­ble un­rest if vot­ing goes to a sec­ond round or if one side is not sat­is­fied with the re­sult.

“I would en­cour­age at any cir­cum­stances, first round, sec­ond round, my sup­port­ers and the peo­ple of Afghanistan: calm­ness, pa­tience, a sense of re­spon­si­bil­ity,” Ab­dul­lah told Reuters in an in­ter­view at his home in Kabul.

“Vi­o­lence should be avoided in any cir­cum­stances.”

Vote count­ing started shortly af­ter polls closed on Thurs­day af­ter­noon but pre­lim­i­nary re­sults are not due for two weeks.

Both camps are re­ly­ing on re­ports from their own mon­i­tors across the coun­try.

Karzai, speak­ing af­ter cast­ing his vote in the cap­i­tal on Thurs­day, said it was in the coun­try’s in­ter­est for the poll to be de­cided in the first round. Ab­dul­lah ac­cused Karzai of do­ing any­thing he could to re­tain power.

“I think it would have been in the coun­try’s in­ter­est if he had not run,” Ab­dul­lah said.

He said candidates had been threat­ened and in­tim­i­dated by gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials around the coun­try. Mon­i­tors and vot­ers had been pre­vented from en­ter­ing polling sta­tions and ac­cused gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials of stuff­ing bal­lot boxes.

Both ma­jor candidates re­ject ac­cu­sa­tions of vote fraud. While Karzai fo­cused on coali­tion build­ing, Ab­dul­lah’s cam­paign built sur­pris­ing mo­men­tum on the strength of pop­u­lar ral­lies across the coun­try. Ab­dul­lah drew crowds in the tens of thou­sands in mainly Ta­jik ar­eas of the north, his main sup­port base. – Reuters

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