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September 17, 2009

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Full uncertified result gives Karzai 54% votes

AFGHANISTAN'S election commission released preliminary vote totals yesterday showing President Hamid Karzai with 54.6 percent of the vote in the first full results to be released since the country's August 20 election.

The election still has not been certified as final, though. A United Nations-backed complaints commission is examining thousands of potentially fraudulent ballots. If the commission invalidates enough votes, Karzai's returns could drop below 50 percent, forcing him into a two-man runoff with top challenger Abdullah Abdullah, who has 27.7 percent of the vote.

Fraud accusations have tainted the election. A UN-backed group investigating fraud has ordered a massive audit and recount of about 10 percent of the country's voting stations.

A European Union monitoring team, meanwhile, said yesterday that about 1.5 million ballots of the 5.6 million cast have indications of fraud, using indicators such as overly high turnout or a preponderance of votes for one candidate.

Full preliminary numbers from Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission show turnout was about 38 percent, a much lower figure than the 70 percent turnout in the country's first direct presidential election in 2004.

Election observers from the US and UN say a runoff must take place before winter sets in or else the process would be delayed until spring, leaving the country with a months-long power vacuum as the Taliban increases its attacks.


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