Karzai, chief rival neck and neck in Afghan poll

Karzai, chief rival neck and neck in Afghan poll

Just before the announcement of the results from 10 percent of the votes cast, Karzai’s chief rival Abdullah Abdullah appealed for calm in a nation riven by Taliban bloodshed and simmering ethnic tension.

Out of the half-million ballots initially counted, the Western-backed Karzai had 212,927 votes or 40.6 per cent, and former foreign minister Abdullah got 202,889 votes or 38.6 percent, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) said.

Karzai’s camp earlier insisted that it had triumphed in Thursday’s election, a pivotal
moment in Afghanistan’s troubled emergence from years of civil war and Taliban rule as the Western troops battle to defeat a raging insurgency. IEC’s chief electoral officer But Daud Najafi stressed it was too early to tell with final results not due until September 3.

“I repeat again, this is partial results of about 10 per cent of the overall vote,” he said.

The results of Afghanistan’s elections could deepen the divides that plague the shaky nation. Abdullah has his powerbase in the north, among ethnic Tajiks, while Karzai is influential in the Pashtun-dominated south. Abdullah, the urbane former minister whose energetic campaign stymied Karzai’s hopes of an easy re-election, again accused the president of rampant vote fraud but tamped down fears of violence linked to a disputed outcome.