Karzai rival claims he has half of Afghan poll vote
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