Preliminary results for Afghanistan’s recent presidential election were released on Saturday, showing that former Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah and former Finance Minister and World Bank economist Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai are the top contenders.

The Afghan Independent Election Commission (IEC) announced that Abdullah Abdullah, who lost the election in 2009 to outgoing president Hamid Karzai, won 44.9 percent of the vote.  Ashraf Ghani came in second with 31.5 percent. The preliminary results are not expected to be finalized until May 14, after the Afghan Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC) has had an opportunity to complete investigations into fraud complaints. However, under Afghan law, if no candidate wins more than 50 percent of the vote, then a runoff election must be held.

“According to our findings it seems that this election will go to the second round,” said election commission chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristan. “We have a tentative schedule of June 7th to start the second round.”

The IEC also announced that 36 percent of voters in the April 5 elections were women, confirming strong participation by women in these elections despite the threat of violence. Overall, some 7 million Afghan men and women voted in the historic elections.

The April 5 elections represent the beginning of the first democratic shift in presidential power in Afghanistan. President Hamid Karzai has served as president of the country since the collapse of the Taliban in 2001. Both Abdullah Abdullah and Ashraf Ghani have supported a continuing relationship with the United States and have indicated that they would sign the bilateral security agreement negotiated between the two countries. President Karzai has delayed signing the agreement, preferring to wait until after the elections.

Media Resources: Independent Election Commission of Afghanistan 4/26/14; TOLO News 4/26/14; Associated Press 4/26/14; The New York Times 4/26/14; Feminist Newswire 11/27/13, 4/7/14

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