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Karzai edging closer to victory in Afghan election

world Updated: Sep 07, 2009 02:40 IST

IANS
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With some three quarters of vote counted, Afghan President Hamid Karzai has edged closer to the absolute majority needed to avoid a run off with his main challenger Abdullah Abdullah, the country's Independent Election Commission (IEC) said on Sunday.

Karzai has received 48.6 percent of votes from nearly 75 percent of polling stations tallied by Sunday, Daoud Ali Najafi, head of the IEC told a news conference. The incumbent is more than 17 points ahead of Abdullah, who garnered 31.7 percent.

A run-off in October would follow if neither candidate made it over the 50 percent mark, but Karzai is widely expected to win the elections.

He has seen a steady climb in his vote in the partial results that have been announced in stages by the election body in the past two weeks.

It is likely that Karzai will extend his lead further, as results from all the provinces where Abdullah was thought to have strong support have nearly finished being counted.

But widespread allegations of fraud have marred the Western-backed election, and are likely to threaten the legitimacy of the result - only the second in the history of the country.

Abdullah, who already accused Karzai's camp of rigging the vote, blamed the IEC for being partisan to the incumbent in a press conference Saturday.

Abdullah showed media a list results of polling stations in southern and eastern provinces, where the results showed hundreds of identical numbers for Karzai and none for any other candidate.

"It sounds like a joke, but it is a tragic joke which cost Afghanistan, and which cost the future of this country," he said, calling on IEC to take out those polling stations from the partial results.

The election body rejected Abdullah's claimed, saying "The IEC has made strenuous efforts to prevent any attempts of fraud with full impartiality and without considering the position of the concerned authority, candidate, supporter governmental official or IEC staff."

Najafi said that the IEC threw out results from 447 out of more than 26,000 polling sites because of allegations of fraud, but did not say that how many of the votes were affected.

The UN-backed Election Complaints Commission has received some 2,300 complaints of voting irregularities, of which some 700 were labelled as "Category A," serious enough to affect the result of the August 20 vote.

"If the complaints are dealt with, if these issues are being addressed, I see no way that President Karzai can keep the lead that he has today. At least it will go to the second round," Abdullah said.

The IEC also said on Sunday that a provision final result would be delayed from Monday, which was initially scheduled, to later in the week. The final certified result will not be available before September 17.