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Rivals Claim Victory in Afghan’s Presidential Vote

A day after Afghan polls that saw low voters turnout amid sporadic violence by Taliban militants, President Hamid Karzai and main rival, Dr Abdullah Abdullah, both have claimed victory in the first round of presidential vote and expressed fears that country could divide along political lines and erupt in violence protest.

Karzai’s campaign chief Deen Mohammad is reported to have told several media outlets that Karzai had attained the absolute majority required to steer clear of a run-off in early October with Dr Abdullah, his closest rival.

“Initial results show that the president has got a majority,” he said. “We will not got to a second round. We have got a majority.”

Nevertheless, Dr Abdullah’s spokesman instantly rejected it as untrue and stressed that according to early results coming from all but three provinces, Dr Abdullah polled 63 per cent of the vote while Karzai 31.

“We should say that Abdullah has won in the first round,” Sayyid Agha Hussain Fazel Sancharaki said.

According to him, the three provinces where results are yet to come from include the southern province of Kandahar, the Taliban’s heartland, and the central provinces of Ghazni and Wardak, where the Taliban also has a strong presence.

It should be noted that these three provinces are also dominated by the ethnic Pashtun majority from where President Karzai hails and derives most of his support, and were among the worst affected by Taliban threats and attacks on voting day.

Analysts said that Karzai could be expropriated of a first round victory due to low voter turnout in Pashtun which might encourage his allies to attempt vote rigging – partly by buying up thousands of voter registration cards from those too scared to vote.

The scene also raises that concerns that Dr Abdullah, who is half Pashtun and half Tajik, might dispute the result, sparking potentially violent protests from his supporters, who are mainly from the Tajik-dominated north.

The Independent Election Commission (IEC) urged both candidates this morning to wait until it started to publish preliminary official results on September 25.

“Announcing the results is the job of the Independent Election Commission, and not of campaign managers,” Zekria Barakzai, a spokesman for the IEC was quoted as saying by media.

“I would like to ask all the candidates and their campaign managers to be patient and to wait for the official results,” he said.

He said counting of votes in the presidential election had been completed in all provinces but tabulated official results papers had yet to be delivered to its headquarters in Kabul.

Counting for simultaneous provincial councillor elections was still going on in four provinces – Kandahar, Nangahar, Baghlan and Balkh, the spokesman said.

He also said that while there was still no official estimate for turnout in yesterday’s vote, initial estimates put it at around 40-50 per cent.

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