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Early Results Show Afghan Poll Deadlock

ROBERT SIEGEL, host:

Afghanistan's controversial presidential elections may be headed to a runoff. Preliminary results released by Afghan election officials today show that neither of the top challengers has more than 50 percent of the vote. The partial results also show incumbent President Hamid Karzai running neck and neck with his main rival, a former foreign minister, Abdullah Abdullah.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is in Kabul and she has the story.

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON: Dawood Ali Najafi, who chairs Afghanistan's independent election commission, said the results were based on a count of some 524,000 votes thus far. That's about 10 percent of the total ballots believed to have been cast. He said Karzai was ahead of Abdullah by only 10,000 votes.

Mr. DAWOOD ALI NAJAFI (Chair, Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission): (Foreign language spoken).

SARHADDI NELSON: But Najafi cautioned against drawing any conclusions. He said the results could change dramatically as early as tomorrow. That's because ballots from a third of Afghanistan's 34 provinces have yet to be counted. Even in major provinces like Kabul, where the count has been underway for several days, less than 10 percent of the vote has been tallied thus far.

Mr. NAJAFI: (Foreign language spoken)

SARHADDI NELSON: Najafi said it's a time consuming seven step process his election workers are going through to tally the vote. He added the counting is being done in front of independent international and Afghan observers, as well as representatives of the campaigns. Najafi also admonished the candidates and their supporters to stop announcing their own versions of the voting results. Each side has repeatedly declared itself to be in the lead since the elections were held last Thursday. The preliminary results were released amid a growing wave of allegations of vote-rigging and other election fraud. The country's election complaints commission says it's investigating 790 fraud-related complaints, including 54 that could affect the poll's outcome.

There was no immediate comment from either President Karzai's or Dr. Abdullah's campaign offices on today's partial results. Meanwhile in Southern Afghanistan's largest city of Kandahar, a massive truck bomb killed and wounded about 100 people today. Officials said the bomb exploded at the offices of a Japanese construction company located near many homes and restaurants. The explosion occurred while Kandahar residents were breaking their daily fast during the holy Islamic month of Ramadan. The head of Kandahar's criminal investigation division said his men are digging out the dead and wounded from the rubble of at least three homes that collapsed in the blast.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson NPR News, Kabul. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson
Special correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs, including Morning Edition and All Things Considered, and read at NPR.org. From 2012 until 2018 Nelson was NPR's bureau chief in Berlin. She won the ICFJ 2017 Excellence in International Reporting Award for her work in Central and Eastern Europe, North Africa, the Middle East and Afghanistan.