Former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani won Afghanistan’s presidential election, according to preliminary results released on Monday, with 56.4% of the run-off vote to Abdullah Abdullah’s 43.5%.
The tally might still change, however, when the final official numbers come out on July 22.
Officials said the turnout was more than eight million in the June 14 vote out of an estimated electorate of 13.5 million voters — far higher than expected, and a figure likely to trigger further allegations of fraud from both sides.
“The IEC (Independent Election Commission) admits that despite best efforts for a better election, there were some technical mistakes and shortcomings in the process,” IEC head Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani told reporters.
“We can not deny fraud and violations in the process, in some cases some security forces were involved, in other cases senior government officials like the governors or lower-level officials were involved.”
Last-minute talks delayed the release of the results by nearly five hours on Monday, as the two campaigns tried to thrash out a deal over fraud allegations that threaten to fuel instability.
Abdullah has vowed to reject the preliminary result, alleging he was the victim of “industrial-scale” ballot-box stuffing, while Ghani has said he won fairly.
Central to the talks is how many of the total 23,000 polling stations will now be put through an anti-fraud audit. “We agreed for an audit of 7,000 polling stations, but they had other conditions that we couldn’t agree with, so for now there is only partial agreement,” Ghani’s spokesman Daud Sultanzoy said.
Abdullah’s spokesman Fazel Sancharaki said: “Our main demand was for the inspection of 11,000 polling stations under the close supervision of the United Nations. Seven thousand polling stations is not enough.
“The negotiations are still ongoing. If they produce a result, we will enter the process, otherwise... we will not recognise it.”
Both sides said the UN was involved in the talks, but its spokesman declined to give further details.
The election was intended to mark the first democratic transfer of power in Afghan history, a crucial step towards stability as Nato prepares to withdraw the bulk of its troops by the end of the year.
Western powers, particularly the United States, had hoped for a trouble-free process that would show that 12 years of their military involvement in Afghanistan were not in vain and contributed to the country’s nation-building.
But the process has been fraught with accusations of cheating from the start. Abdullah, son of a Pashtun father and a Tajik mother, draws much of his support from the Tajik minority in northern Afghanistan. Ghani has strong support from Pashtun tribes in the country’s south and east. Without a unifying leader accepted by all sides, Afghanistan could split into two or more fiefdoms along tribal fault lines.