Karzai team claims victory in Afghan vote

Author: By Sayed Salahuddin, Reuters

“Initial results show that the president has got a majority,” Deen Mohammad
told Reuters, although he said it was the duty of the election commission to
announce the official results.

“We will not get to a second round. We have got a majority.”

Mohammad said the estimate of victory was based on reports from nearly 29,000
monitors the campaign had at polling stations throughout the country.

Official preliminary results are not due for two weeks, but counting began
immediately after polls closed on Thursday and is largely complete.

The 6,200 polling stations are required to make their results available to the
public as they tabulate them, to prevent fraud.

A spokesman for Karzai’s chief rival, Abdullah Abdullah, dismissed the victory
claim.

“It isn’t true,” said Fazl Sangcharaki. “We also say, ‘Maybe we don’t need a
second round and Abdullah has won.'”

Zekria Barakzai, deputy head of the Independent Election Commission (IEC)
urged patience.

“We cannot confirm any claims by campaigning managers. It’s the job of the
election commission to declare the results. They should be patient.”

The U.N. mission in Kabul and the US embassy both said no result was
legitimate until endorsed by the IEC.

“We’ve seen the reports, but only the IEC is in a position to announce
official results. We’ll be waiting to hear from them. Anything else is just
speculation,” US embassy spokeswoman Fleur Cowan said.

Afghan officials and their US protectors have breathed a sigh of relief after
the relatively peaceful presidential election, which Taliban militants
failed to disrupt despite sporadic attacks across the country.

Barakzai said two convoys of election workers transporting ballot boxes had
been attacked following the vote. In one, in Balkh province in the north, an
election worker was killed and ballots that had already been counted were
burned.

He said preliminary figures showed overall turnout was around 40-50 percent.
This would be roughly in line with estimates by Western diplomats before the
poll.

Polls conducted before the election showed Karzai in the lead but suggested he
might be headed for a run-off against Abdullah, a former foreign minister
with strong support in the north.

Sangcharaki, Abdullah’s spokesman, said the north had voted solidly for
Abdullah, except for Jowzjan province, home of Uzbek militia chieftain Abdul
Rashid Dostum, who returned to the country days before the vote to campaign
for Karzai.

Western backers have expressed concern about Karzai’s tactic of seeking
support from former militia chiefs, afraid that deals made to secure votes
could bring warlords back to power.

Much is likely to depend on turnout in southern areas, such as Karzai’s home
province of Kandahar, where the president draws his strongest support but
voters faced the brunt of Taliban attacks and intimidation.

In Washington, President Barack Obama hailed the conduct of the election and
vowed to press on with his strategy, which has involved sending thousands of
additional troops to the country.

“We had what appears to be a successful election in Afghanistan, despite the
Taliban’s efforts to disrupt it,” U.S President Barack Obama said from the
White House.

“We have to focus on finishing the job in Afghanistan but it is going to take
some time.”

The election was a test for Obama’s new strategy aimed at reversing Taliban
gains. US combat casualties have risen amid a US troop buildup and opinion
polls have shown weakening American backing for the war.

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