A preliminary survey of voters who cast ballots Saturday in Afghanistan's first ever presidential election indicates current transitional President Hamid Karzai is the apparent winner.
The poll by the U.S.-based International Republican Institute shows President Hamid Karzai winning Saturday's election by a margin of 46 percentage points.
This is despite a crowded field of 18 candidates contesting the election.
The poll gives Mr. Karzai an overwhelming 86 percent of the votes among the country's largest ethnic group, the Pashtuns, of which he is member.
That result easily compensated for Mr. Karzai's reportedly weaker showing among other ethnic groups, where he failed to take a majority.
If the poll is correct, the president will not have to stand in a second, run-off election, which is required if no candidate takes more than 50 percent.
The poll covers more than 13,000 respondents in 22 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces, as well as refugee voters in Pakistan.
It is the only poll publicly available, although two classified polls by foreign intelligence services yielded similar results, according to sources close to the intelligence agencies.
Meanwhile, several candidates who ran against Mr. Karzai have filed complaints with the joint Afghan-United Nations election body, alleging voter fraud and other irregularities.
In a statement issued from Beijing, U.N. Secretary General Kofi Annan urged the candidates and the Afghan public to have faith in the election body's investigation into the charges.
The statement, read to reporters by U.N. spokesman Manoel de Almeida e Silva, said the investigations themselves would strengthen Afghanistan's fledgling democracy.
"The result of these inquiries will help make electoral procedures more robust and reliable for your local and parliamentary elections scheduled for the spring of 2005," he said.
Ballots are being collected from across the country and from Afghan refugee communities in neighboring Iran and Pakistan, with formal counting beginning in the coming days. Final election results could take several weeks.