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    Close Race in Partial Afghan Vote Count

    Preliminary official results are beginning to come in from Afghanistan's April 5 presidential election, showing a close race between former finance minister Ashraf Ghani and opposition politician Abdullah Abdullah.

    The Afghan Independent Election Commission said Sunday with nearly 500,000 votes counted, early figures put Abdullah in the lead with nearly 42 percent of the vote. Ghani follows with 38 percent. Some seven million votes were cast in all.

    A third candidate, Zalmai Rassoul, running with the support of the brothers of incumbent President Hamid Karzai, trails far behind with less than 10 percent of the votes.

    Election Commission Chairman Ahmad Yousuf Nuristani on Sunday cautioned that the vote count so far comprises just 10 percent of the polling stations in 26 of Afghanistan's 34 provinces.

    Final results are expected to be announced May 14.



    Afghan officials say the number of recorded incidents of serious fraud have exceeded figures for the 2009 election, when more than a million votes were canceled. Nuristani has promised those allegations will be investigated.

    The Taliban had threatened to disrupt the April 5 vote, but the election took place amid relative peace after several high-profile attacks targeting politicians, journalists and security forces in previous weeks.

    President Karzai was constitutionally barred from running for a third term. He has been in office since U.S.-led forces ousted the Taliban government in 2001.

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