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Abdullah leads Ghani in first partial results of Afghan vote

KABUL -- Former foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah is leading his closest rival Ashraf Ghani in the Afghan presidential election, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) said Sunday, with the early results indicating a run-off vote is likely.

The eventual winner will have to lead the fight against a resurgent Taliban as U.S.-led combat troops prepare to leave at year-end, and strengthen an economy reliant on declining aid money.

“Today we announce the partial results of 26 provinces with 10 percent of votes counted, these include (provinces) in the north, south, east, west and Kabul,” said Yousuf Nuristani, the IEC chief.

“With 500,000 votes from 26 provinces Dr. Abdullah is leading with 41.9 percent; Dr Ashraf Ghani has 37.6 percent and is in second; and Zalmai Rassoul has 9.8 percent in third position.”

A run-off election between the two leading candidates will be triggered if no single candidate gains more than 50 percent of the vote when the final results are announced in late May.

But Nuristani cautioned against reading too much into the early results.

“These results are changeable ... today one candidate might be leading but when we announce more results another candidate might be leading,” he said.

Of the eight provinces for which results have not been announced, two are in the north (Badakhshan and Baghlan) and two in the east (Nuristan and Paktika). The others are Daykundi in the center, southern Ghazni and Wardak and the western province of Ghor.

Abdullah, who was born to an ethnic Pashtun father and a Tajik mother, is more associated with the northern Tajiks.

More than seven million people defied bad weather and Taliban threats of violence to vote in the April 5 first round of the election, earning praise from world leaders.

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In this photograph taken on April 5, Afghan Presidential Candidate Abdullah Abdullah shows his inked finger as he casts his vote at a local polling station in Kabul. (AFP)

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