Initial Results Hint at Second Term for Afghan Prez Ashraf Ghani 

Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission (IEC) said Ghani had won 50.64 percent of the votes.

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Afghan President Ashraf Ghani

Afghanistan's President Ashraf Ghani appeared to have secured a second term on Sunday, 22 December, narrowly scoring an outright win in preliminary polling results, but his main rival immediately vowed to challenge the tally.

After months of political limbo and bitter allegations of fraud and corruption in the 28 September poll, Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission (IEC) said Ghani had won 50.64 percent of the votes.

If it holds, the result is enough for Ghani to avoid a run-off. He easily beat his top challenger, Chief Executive Abdullah Abdullah, who scored 39.52 percent.

Candidates now have a few days to file any complaints before final results are announced, probably within weeks.

As soon as results were announced, Abdullah's office said in a statement he would contest them.

"We would like to make it clear once again to our people, supporters, election commission and our international allies that our team will not accept the result of this fraudulent vote unless our legitimate demands are addressed," the statement read.

Abdullah lost to Ghani in 2014 in a divisive election that saw the US intervene to broker an awkward power-sharing deal between the two rivals.

US ambassador to Afghanistan John Bass said it was vital the full electoral process plays out.

"It's important for all Afghans to remember: these results are preliminary. Many steps remain before final election results are certified, to ensure the Afghan people have confidence in the results," Bass wrote on Twitter.

Preliminary results were originally due October 19 but were repeatedly delayed amid technical issues and allegations of fraud from various candidates, particularly Abdullah.

Observers and candidates have blasted the IEC over its handling of the count and its repeated disregard of the electoral calendar.

The Transparent Electoral Foundation of Afghanistan, an independent watchdog, said the IEC needs to share all information about how it reached its numbers and break down data by polling centre.

IEC chairwoman Hawa Alam Nuristani said her agency acted with "honesty, loyalty, responsibility and faithfulness".

"We respected every single vote because we wanted democracy to endure," she said.

(This article has been published in an arrangement with PTI)

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