Ghani Leads Afghan Vote, But Fraud Charges Hang Over Results

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from The Wall Street Journal,

Election Panel Declares Leader, but No Winner, Saying Results Could Change After a Review Involving the U.N.

Ashraf Ghani edged closer to becoming Afghanistan’s next president after winning a majority of votes in a preliminary count, but election officials stopped short of declaring a winner as millions of ballots could still be reviewed for fraud allegations.

The country’s election commission said Monday that Mr. Ghani, a former finance minister, had won 56.4% of the vote in a preliminary count, against Mr. Abdullah’s 43.6%.

But with his rival Abdullah Abdullah alleging widespread fraud in the June 14 runoff vote, the political crisis over the validity of the election’s results remained unresolved.

The official turnout—8.1 million votes—was significantly higher than experts had predicted. Mr. Abdullah, a former foreign minister, alleged that as many as two million of these ballots were fraudulent.

He has accused the country’s chief electoral officer, Ziaulhaq Amarkhil, of perpetrating the fraud, and released recordings allegedly corroborating his charges. Mr. Amarkhil denied any wrongdoing but resigned following the recordings’ release.

Yusuf Nuristani, the chairman of the Independent Election Commission, said the results released on Monday were subject to change after an investigation of fraud complaints by the country’s election watchdog, the Independent Electoral Complaints Commission.

“Today’s announcement won’t be the declaration of the winner of the election,” he said. “Changes may come after investigation by the IECC.”

The IECC has several weeks to review complaints of voting irregularities.

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