Karzai, rival claim victory

Karzai’s campaign manager and Abdullah both said preliminary, unofficial results showed they had won enough votes to avoid a potentially destabilising second round of voting in October. However, election officials said no confirmed results had been released. “Initial results show that the president has got a majority,” Karzai’s campaign manager Deen Mohammad said. “We will not get to a second round. We have got a majority.”

Abdullah, Karzai’s former foreign minister, dismissed the Karzai camp’s victory claim and said he was on track to win in the first round after Thursday’s vote, which went ahead despite sporadic violence after the Taliban threatened the vote.

“I’m ahead. Initial results from the provinces show that I have more than 50 per cent of the vote,” Abdullah told Reuters by telephone in Kabul.

Official preliminary results are not due for two weeks, but counting began immediately after polls closed on Thursday and is largely complete.

Analysts have warned that uncertainty over the outcome or accusations of widespread fraud could lead to civil unrest. US envoy Richard Holbrooke said he was certain the outcome of the vote would be disputed.

“We always knew it would be a disputed election. I would not be surprised if you see candidates claiming victory and fraud in the next few days,” Holbrooke said at a briefing in Kabul with election observers.

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