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Afghan Presidential Election Goes to Runoff

  • Ayaz Gul

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah speaks during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, May 14, 2014.

Afghan presidential candidate Abdullah Abdullah speaks during a news conference in Kabul, Afghanistan, Wednesday, May 14, 2014.

Official results from Afghanistan’s 2014 presidential election show none of the eight candidates won a majority in the first round, forcing the election commission to call for a June 14 runoff between the two top vote getters.

About seven million Afghans turned out to vote in the April 5 presidential election in which front runner Abdullah Abdullah officially received 45 percent of the total, while former finance minister Ashfraf Ghani finished second with nearly 32 percent.

While announcing the final results in Kabul, Independent Election Commission Chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nouristani said 64 percent of the voters were men and 36 percent women.

He said after reviewing the decisions of the Electoral Complaint Commission, which adjudicates complaints, it is evident none of the candidates received 51 percent of the votes. Nouristani announced the election will go to a runoff on June 14 between Abdullah and Ghani.

He urged Afghan voters to ensure maximum participation, like they did in the first round. The winner will replace outgoing President Hamid Karzai who is constitutionally barred from taking part in the election. The political transition will be the first democratic transfer of power in the war-torn Afghanistan.

Despite serious security threats, the high turnout in the April 5 polls received global appreciation. Observers like Kate Clark of the Kabul-based Afghanistan Analysts Network hope voters will demonstrate the same kind of interest and excitement in the runoff.

“If the Afghan people can get to the polls and if the two teams really do engage in a debate and do not defraud the public, then it is hugely important for Afghanistan and the next president will have a mandate to do what he wants. This country needs a lot of strength in the presidency both in terms of making reforms, dealing with the rampant corruption and dealing with the Taliban," said Clark. "And the better the elections the more legitimate the stronger his hands will be.”

The election commission says final results from the runoff will be announced July 22.

In a statement issued Thursday, the head of the United Nations mission in Kabul praised Afghan candidates for running “a hard-fought, but positive campaign." The United States also commended candidates and millions of Afghan men and women who went to the polls.

American Ambassador to Afghanistan James Cunningham issued a statement, saying “the people of Afghanistan need a runoff election that is credible, inclusive and transparent. He said the future of Afghanistan is for Afghans to determine and this election is a “truly historic opportunity”.