KABUL: Former World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani won Afghanistan’s presidential election, according to preliminary results Monday, but fraud allegations are set to spark a dispute over the outcome and stoke concerns of instability.
Ghani won 56.4 percent of the run-off vote, with ex-foreign minister Abdullah Abdullah on 43.5 percent — a major comeback for Ghani after the first-round election in April, when eight men stood to succeed President Hamid Karzai.
Officials said the turnout on June 14 was more than eight million out of an estimated electorate of 13.5 million, far higher than expected, and a figure likely to fuel fierce arguments about fraud from both sides.
The next president will lead Afghanistan at a pivotal time as US-led troops end their 13-year war against Taliban insurgents, and the fragile economy struggles with declining international aid.
“We can not deny fraud and violations in the process,” Independent Election Commission (IEC) head Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani told reporters.
“In some cases some security forces were involved, in other cases senior government officials like governors or lower-level officials were involved.”
Nuristani emphasised that the results would now be subject to auditing and adjudication of complaints, before the official result released on about July 24.
“The preliminary result in no way means the announcement of the winner of the election,” he said. “A change in the result is possible.”
Last-minute talks delayed the results by nearly five hours on Monday, as the two campaigns tried to thrash out a deal over a proposed fraud probe that could yet derail Afghanistan’s first democratic transfer of power.
Abdullah, a former anti-Taliban resistance fighter, had vowed to reject the preliminary result, alleging he was the victim of “industrial-scale” ballot-box stuffing.
“Our case will be focused around the eight million turnout figure and the fact Mr. Nuristani accused security forces (of fraud),” Abdullah spokesman Javed Faisal told AFP.
Ghani’s team welcomed the announcement, with spokeswomen Azita Rafat saying: “We worked hard and saw the result, but we don’t want to prejudge the final results.”