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Abdullah slightly ahead in first results of Afghan vote

KABUL: President Hamid Karzai’s closest rival, former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah is leading his closest rival Ashraf Ghani in early results from the Afghan presidential election, the Independent Election Commission (IEC) said Sunday, but figures indicate a likely run-off vote.
“Today we announce the partial results of 26 provinces with 10 percent of votes counted, these include (provinces) in the north, south, east, west and Kabul,” said IEC chie, Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani.
“With 500,000 votes from 26 provinces Dr Abdullah is leading with 41.9 percent; Dr Ashraf Ghani has 37.6 percent and is in second; and Zalmai Rassoul has 9.8 percent in third position.”
Karzai himself was constitutionally barred from seeking a third term.
Officials cautioned the vote count could change as full preliminary results were not due until April 24, but the early numbers suggest none of the eight candidates was likely to get the outright majority needed to avoid a runoff.
Shortly after the results were announced, Abdullah told The Associated Press he has held talks with Rassoul but it was premature to discuss a possible alliance. He said he will seek a unity government if elected, but he appeared to rule out the possibility of including Ghani.
“Dr. Ghani could serve as a loyal opposition. That’s also a service to the nation,” he said in an interview at his house in Kabul.
The chairman of the Independent Election Commission, Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani, said it was too soon to predict the outcome with so few of the more than 7 million ballots cast counted.
“Maybe today one candidate looks strong. Tomorrow, maybe another will pull ahead,” he said.