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Asia Today ISSN 1861-4604 Tuesday, January 23, 2018

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Early poll results show Ghani is new Afghan president

Former World Bank economist new president

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KABUL, Afghanistan - Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai, a former World Bank economist, is likely to be declared the new president of Afghanistan, according to early poll results that were declared Monday amid continued fraud allegations by opponent Abdullah Abdullah.

Ghani has secured 56.4 percent of the run-off vote as against Abdullah's 43.6 percent, Independent Election Commission head Ahmed Yusuf Nuristani said.

"The IEC (Independent Election Commission) admits that despite best efforts for a better election, there were some technical mistakes and shortcomings in the process," IEC head Ahmad Yusuf Nuristani told reporters.

However, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said a full investigation of fraud allegations was needed to ensure confidence in the final outcome.

Abdullah had won the first round of voting in April. However, none of the contestants had garnered 50 or above percent of votes. The runoff was conducted with Abdullah and Ghani emerging as the top two.

Abdullah has now accused the election body of fraud and boycotted the results alleging he was a victim of "industrial-scale" ballot-box stuffing.

Nuristani admitted on behalf of the poll panel that "despite best efforts for a better election, there were some technical mistakes and shortcomings in the process".

"We cannot deny fraud and violations in the process, in some cases some security forces were involved, in other cases senior government officials like the governors or lower-level officials were involved."

Nuristani said that the final results would be released on July 22.

"Talks and discussions on fraud among parties have continued. We advise candidates to consult with us on the results if they have concerns, and we hope they accept the initial results."

"I am calling on supporters of both candidates to be calm and control their emotions until the announcement of the final result," Nuristani said.

Mahmud Saikal, a spokesperson for Abdullah, rejected the preliminary results. "Whatever is released by the IEC has no recognition whatsoever for us," he said.

In a statement, U.S. State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said a full investigation of fraud allegations was needed to ensure confidence in the final outcome.

"A full and thorough review of all reasonable allegations of irregularities is essential to ensure that the Afghan people have confidence in the integrity of the electoral process and that the new Afghan president is broadly accepted inside and outside Afghanistan," it said.

The statement, citing Afghan election authorities, noted that the reviews could potentially affect more than 3 million ballots.

The Afghan government has set Aug 2 as an inauguration date for Hamid Karzai's successor.

The vote deadlock has shattered hopes for a smooth transition of power in the war-torn nation that has also caused a concern for the West as US-led forces are to withdraw from the country this year end.

Failure to resolve the deadlock has threatened escalation of violence and further division in Afghanistan which besides a deadly insurgency is also fighting an unending war against poverty.

A possible delay in forming a new government is also likely to further complicate the process of the signing of a pact with US, which is necessary to keep American troops in Afghanistan beyond this year.

America wants to retain the presence of its troops in Afghanistan for strategic reasons and to secure billions of dollars in aid to the impoverished country.

Ghani has said the funds are essential to pay Afghan soldiers as they fight Taliban insurgents who ran the country before the US invasion in 2001.

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