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Afghan officials: Ahmadzai leads in disputed vote

KDWN

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan officials released preliminary election results Monday showing former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai well in the lead for the presidency but said no winner can be declared because millions of ballots were being audited for fraud.

The announcement came as Ahmadzai is locked in a standoff with his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who has refused to accept any results until all fraudulent ballots are invalidated. A spokesman for his campaign rejected the results and called the decision to release them “a coup.”

The United States issued a strongly worded statement cautioning the results “are not final or authoritative” and urging electoral authorities to “implement a thorough audit whether or not the two campaigns agree.”

The Independent Election Commission acknowledged that vote rigging had occurred and said ballots from about 7,000 more of the nearly 23,000 polling stations would be audited.

“We cannot ignore that there were technical problems and fraud that took place during the election process,” the commission’s chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani said. “We are not denying fraud in the election, some governors and Afghan government officials were involved in fraud.”

The results showed that Ghani had about 4.5 million votes, or 56 percent, while Abdullah had 3.5 million votes, or 44 percent, according to the commission. Turnout was more than 50 percent, IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said.

Abdullah, a former foreign minister who won the first round of voting on April 5 by a large margin, says his campaign monitors recorded ballot box stuffing and other irregularities, prompting him to suspend his cooperation with electoral officials. The European Union also expressed concern about “highly worrying indications of potentially widespread fraud.”

The U.S. State Department called for a “full and thorough review of all reasonable allegations of irregularities” to ensure Afghan confidence in the integrity of the electoral process and broad acceptance of the new Afghan president.

“Serious allegations of fraud have been raised and have yet to be adequately investigated,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

She said more than 3 million ballots could be affected but expressed confidence the process could be completed in time to allow the inauguration of the next president to be held on Aug. 2 as scheduled.

The preliminary results had been due on July 2 but were delayed by five days while officials said they would audit ballots from 1,930 polling stations that had at least 599 votes. Nouristani said that had led to 6,474 pro-Ahmadzai votes and 4,428 in favor of Abdullah from 114 polling stations being invalidated.

Abdullah said Sunday that was insufficient and demanded the results be postponed until all fraud allegations were resolved. His campaign planned a press conference on Tuesday.

“The announcement of the results was a coup by the IEC and Ghani and Karzai against our votes,” said Abdul Satar Murad, a member of Abdullah’s campaign team. “And this announcement will never be accepted by us.”

Many of Ahmadzai’s supporters didn’t wait for final results to celebrate. Scores took to the streets of Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar, playing drums and dancing after hearing the news.

Elay Ershad, a lawmaker and member of Ahmadzai’s team, welcomed the announcement of the results, pointing out there were still two weeks to resolve complaints about fraud before the final results are due.

According to the election commission’s official timetable, final results are due on July 22.

The impasse has threatened to undermine what the U.S. and its allies had hoped would be the country’s first democratic transfer of authority after President Hamid Karzai agreed to step down after two terms as legally required.

Western officials were looking for a smooth transition to show progress ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. and allied combat troops by the end of this year. Whoever wins will inherit an impoverished country mired in insurgency and facing high unemployment and declining foreign aid.

Both candidates have promised to sign a security pact with the Obama administration that would allow nearly 10,000 American forces to remain in the country in a training capacity and to conduct counterterrorism operations. A disruption in the announcement of election results could mean another delay in finalizing that agreement, which was rebuffed by Karzai.

Ahmadzai, a former finance minister and World Bank official, also filed complaints of irregularities in the June 14 balloting but has insisted that the agreed-upon counting process be respected and said any further delays in releasing results would be unacceptable.

The results were announced after the campaign teams held hours of negotiations with electoral officials over the number of polling stations to be audited.

Afghan officials: Ahmadzai leads in disputed vote

KDWN

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Afghan officials released preliminary election results Monday showing former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai well in the lead for the presidency but said no winner can be declared because millions of ballots were being audited for fraud.

The announcement came as Ahmadzai is locked in a standoff with his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who has refused to accept any results until all fraudulent ballots are invalidated.

Many of Ahmadzai’s supporters didn’t wait for final results to celebrate. Hundreds took to the streets of Kabul and the southern city of Kandahar, playing drums and dancing after hearing the news.

The Independent Election Commission acknowledged that vote rigging had occurred and said ballots from about 7,000 more of the nearly 23,000 polling stations would be audited.

“We cannot ignore that there were technical problems and fraud that took place during the election process,” the commission’s chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani said. “We are not denying fraud in the election, some governors and Afghan government officials were involved in fraud.”

The results showed that Ghani had about 4.5 million votes, or 56 percent, while Abdullah had 3.5 million votes, or 44 percent, according to the commission. Turnout was more than 50 percent, IEC spokesman Noor Mohammad Noor said.

Abdullah, a former foreign minister who won the first round of voting on April 5 by a large margin, says his campaign monitors recorded ballot box stuffing and other irregularities, prompting him to suspend his cooperation with electoral officials. The European Union also expressed concern about “highly worrying indications of potentially widespread fraud.”

The U.S. also urged caution.

“We have seen today’s announcement of preliminary results and note that these figures are not final or authoritative and may not predict the final outcome, which could still change based on the findings of the Afghan electoral bodies. Serious allegations of fraud have been raised and have yet to be adequately investigated,” State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

She said more than 3 million ballots could be affected but expressed confidence the process could be completed in time to allow the inauguration of the next president to be held on Aug. 2 as scheduled.

The preliminary results had been due on July 2 but were delayed by five days while officials said they would audit ballots from 1,930 polling stations that had at least 599 votes. Nouristani said that had led to 6,474 pro-Ahmadzai votes and 4,428 in favor of Abdullah from 114 polling stations being invalidated.

Abdullah said that was insufficient and demanded the results be postponed until all fraud allegations were resolved.

The impasse has threatened to undermine what the U.S. and its allies had hoped would be the country’s first democratic transfer of authority after President Hamid Karzai agreed to step down after two terms as legally required.

Western officials were looking for a smooth transition to show progress ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. and allied combat troops by the end of this year. Whoever wins will inherit an impoverished country mired in insurgency and facing high unemployment and declining foreign aid.

Both candidates have promised to sign a security pact with the Obama administration that would allow nearly 10,000 American forces to remain in the country in a training capacity and to conduct counterterrorism operations. A disruption in the announcement of election results could mean another delay in finalizing that agreement, which was rebuffed by Karzai.

Ahmadzai, a former finance minister and World Bank official, also filed complaints of irregularities in the June 14 balloting but has insisted that the agreed-upon counting process be respected and said any further delays in releasing results would be unacceptable.

According to the election commission’s official timetable, final results are due on July 22. Karzai set Aug. 2 as the date for the new president to be sworn in.

The results were announced after the campaign teams held hours of negotiations with electoral officials over the number of polling stations to be audited.

Neither candidate issued an immediate response and their representatives could not be reached for comment.

Afghan officials: Ahmadzai leads in disputed vote

KDWN

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has the lead in Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election, according to a preliminary tally released Monday despite allegations of massive fraud.

The announcement came as Ahmadzai is locked in a standoff with his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who has refused to accept any results until all fraudulent ballots are invalidated.

The Independent Election Commission acknowledged that vote rigging had occurred and promised to launch a more extensive investigation before final results are released.

“We cannot ignore that there were technical problems and fraud that took place during the election process,” the commission’s chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani said. “We are not denying fraud in the election, some governors and Afghan government officials were involved in fraud.”

The results showed that Ghani had about 4.5 million votes while Abdullah had 3.5 million votes, Nouristani said.

Abdullah, a former foreign minister who won the first round of voting on April 5 by a large margin, says his campaign monitors recorded ballot box stuffing and other irregularities, prompting him to suspend his cooperation with electoral officials. The European Union also expressed concern about “highly worrying indications of potentially widespread fraud.”

The preliminary results had been due on July 2 but were delayed by five days while officials said they would audit ballots from nearly 2,000 polling stations that had at least 599 votes.

Abdullah said that was insufficient and demanded the results be postponed until all fraud allegations were resolved.

The impasse has threatened to undermine what the U.S. and its allies had hoped would be the country’s first democratic transfer of authority after President Hamid Karzai agreed to step down after two terms as legally required.

Western officials were looking for a smooth transition to show progress ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. and allied combat troops by the end of this year. Whoever wins will inherit an impoverished country mired in insurgency and facing high unemployment and declining foreign aid.

Both candidates have promised to sign a security pact with the Obama administration that would allow nearly 10,000 American forces to remain in the country in a training capacity and to conduct counterterrorism operations. A disruption in the announcement of election results could mean another delay in finalizing that agreement, which was rebuffed by Karzai.

Ahmadzai, a former finance minister and World Bank official, also filed complaints of irregularities in the June 14 balloting but has insisted that the agreed-upon counting process be respected and said any further delays in releasing results would be unacceptable.

According to the election commission’s official timetable, final results are due on July 22. Karzai has set Aug. 2 as the date for the new president to be inaugurated.

The campaign teams, meanwhile, were holding technical and political talks in a bid to resolve the crisis, although both candidates have ruled out a deal on a coalition government.

Afghan officials: Ahmadzai leads in disputed vote

KDWN

KABUL, Afghanistan (AP) — Former finance minister Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai has the lead in Afghanistan’s disputed presidential election, according to a preliminary tally released Monday despite allegations of massive fraud.

The announcement came as Ahmadzai is locked in a standoff with his rival Abdullah Abdullah, who has refused to accept any results until all fraudulent ballots are invalidated.

The Independent Election Commission acknowledged that vote rigging had occurred and promised to launch a more extensive investigation before final results are released.

“We cannot ignore that there were technical problems and fraud that took place during the election process,” the commission’s chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani said. “We are not denying fraud in the election, some governors and Afghan government officials were involved in fraud.”

The results showed that Ghani had about 4.5 million votes while Abdullah had 3.5 million votes, Nouristani said.

Abdullah, a former foreign minister who won the first round of voting on April 5 by a large margin, says his campaign monitors recorded ballot box stuffing and other irregularities, prompting him to suspend his cooperation with electoral officials. The European Union also expressed concern about “highly worrying indications of potentially widespread fraud.”

The preliminary results had been due on July 2 but were delayed by five days while officials said they would audit ballots from nearly 2,000 polling stations that had at least 599 votes.

Abdullah said that was insufficient and demanded the results be postponed until all fraud allegations were resolved.

The impasse has threatened to undermine what the U.S. and its allies had hoped would be the country’s first democratic transfer of authority after President Hamid Karzai agreed to step down after two terms as legally required.

Western officials were looking for a smooth transition to show progress ahead of the withdrawal of U.S. and allied combat troops by the end of this year. Whoever wins will inherit an impoverished country mired in insurgency and facing high unemployment and declining foreign aid.

Both candidates have promised to sign a security pact with the Obama administration that would allow nearly 10,000 American forces to remain in the country in a training capacity and to conduct counterterrorism operations. A disruption in the announcement of election results could mean another delay in finalizing that agreement, which was rebuffed by Karzai.

Ahmadzai, a former finance minister and World Bank official, also filed complaints of irregularities in the June 14 balloting but has insisted that the agreed-upon counting process be respected and said any further delays in releasing results would be unacceptable.

According to the election commission’s official timetable, final results are due on July 22. Karzai has set Aug. 2 as the date for the new president to be inaugurated.

The campaign teams, meanwhile, were holding technical and political talks in a bid to resolve the crisis, although both candidates have ruled out a deal on a coalition government.