Afghan president Ashraf Ghani attends an event in Kabul. File photo
Afghanistan's election commission said the president has won a second term, earning 50.64% of a preliminary vote count announced Sunday, but his opponents can still challenge the result.
The Sept. 28 presidential poll results have been repeatedly delayed amid accusations of misconduct and technical problems with counting ballots.
Ashraf Ghani appears to have beaten out his main challenger Abdullah Abdullah, who serves as the country’s chief executive in a fragile national unity government.
If the preliminary results hold and Ghani remains president, it will give him the authority he's been seeking to demand a leading role in peace talks with the Taliban.
Ghani and his government have been sidelined during the past year of direct talks between the US and the Taliban. Washington seeks to withdraw its combat troops and end 18 years of fighting in Afghanistan, America's longest war.
The head of the Independent Election Commission, Hawa Alam Nuristani, did not say when the final results will be presented.
There also won't be any decision on whether a second round of voting is needed until the final results are out, and Ghani's lead of over 50% is secure. Afghanistan's election laws say a runoff must take place if no candidate obtains over 50% of the votes.
The preliminary results found Ghani won 923,868 votes — 50.64% — while Abdullah won 720,990 votes, according to Nuristani.
She did not give a specific percentage for Abdullah during the press conference in the capital, Kabul, but he appeared to have received 39.52%.
The preliminary vote count was originally set to be announced Oct. 17, and the final tally on Nov. 7.
The election commission tried to launch a ballot recount in November but Abdullah halted the attempt, saying he wouldn’t let his observers participate. He eventually allowed a recount to go forward earlier this month.
Militants have struck again in Afghanistan killing or wounding several innocent people and such cowardly, cruel acts should end. The country has witnessed too much bloodshed and the worst affected
The move is likely an attempt to undercut a US proposal — supported by Russia — for the formation of an interim government involving the Taliban to rule the country once the last US troops withdraw.
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