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    Afghan Presidential Hopeful Urges Transparent Vote

    A frontrunner in Afghanistan's presidential vote wants to see a transparent vote count in this month's election.

    When asked about a possible run-off, Former Afghan Foreign Minister Abdullah Abdullah told VOA's Afghan Service on Thursday that it is more important that the process be fair and legitimate, regardless of who the ultimately wins the April 5 vote.

    Afghanistan's Independent Election Commission says more than 45 percent of ballots have been entered into its data system, and that a partial vote count can not be released until at least 20 of 34 total provinces are counted. A final tally is not expected until mid-May.

    Abdullah and former World Bank official Ashraf Ghani are seen as frontrunners, but there is speculation a a run-off election will be needed.

    In the interview with VOA, Abdullah said there is a "good possibility" that the the vote will not go to a second round. He emphasized that the "completion of the process and a future government based on the votes of the people will be in the national interest of Afghanistan."

    Candidates need 50 percent plus one vote to win the presidential race. If no one reaches that threshold, a run-off takes place.

    Abdullah says so far the April 5 vote does not seem to have many of the same issues that occurred during the 2009 presidential election, which was said to be marred by widespread fraud. In that race, Abdullah withdrew from a run-off election with President Hamid Karzai in that race.

    Afghan voters last week voted for a successor to President Hamid Karzai, who could not run for a third term. He has been in office since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban government in 2001.

    The United States is watching the outcome of race closely and is hopeful that whoever wins will sign the already negotiated Bilateral Security Agreement. President Karzai has refused to sign the deal that would allow some American troops to remain in Afghanistan in a training and advisory role after 2014. Mr. Karzai's office has said he wants U.S. assurances that it will play a key role in peace talks with the Taliban and stop nighttime raids on Afghan homes.

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