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Page last updated at 23:20 GMT, Wednesday, 26 August 2009 00:20 UK

Karzai widens lead in Afghan poll

Election worker in Jalalabad
A final election result is not expected for several weeks

Incumbent Hamid Karzai appears to have extended his lead in Afghanistan's presidential election, after more early results were released.

Mr Karzai has 45% to his nearest rival Abdullah Abdullah's 35%, with 17% of ballots counted, vote officials say.

Results are being released daily and final figures are due in September.

Widespread accusations of fraud and vote rigging and concerns about low voter turnout have cast doubt on the legitimacy of the election.

Early days

With 940,000 votes counted, the election commission said on Wednesday that Mr Karzai had 422,000 votes, compared with 330,000 for Mr Abdullah.

Ramazan Bashardost was on 108,000, and Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai fourth on 28,000.

Graph showing election results
Other leading candidates:
Ramazan Bashardost
108,000 (10.8%)
Ashraf Ghani Ahmadzai
28,000 (2.8%)
Winning candidate needs more than 50% of votes to avoid a run-off

A candidate needs more than 50% of votes to avoid a run-off.

The BBC's Ian Pannell in Kabul says this is still a small fraction of the overall count and it will take some time for a fuller picture to emerge.

Analysts say any preliminary claims about the result must be viewed with caution in the light of the allegations of fraud, corruption and ballot-stuffing and concerns about low voter turnout, especially in the south.

The official adjudicators, the Electoral Complaints Commission (ECC), are investigating more than 1,000 complaints of fraud and irregularities and, out of these, at least 50 are considered to be very serious.

Our correspondent says there are also fears that supporters of the losing candidates could take to the streets if they feel that the election has not been legitimate.

The international community is urging patience and calm until all complaints have been investigated and the final results are announced.

Some feel Afghan and Western officials were too swift to declare last Thursday's poll a success, despite concerns about the turnout, especially in the insurgency-wracked south.

Violence

The Nato-led International Security Assistance Force (Isaf) said there were more than 400 insurgent attacks on election day, which would make it one of the most violent days in Afghanistan since 2001.

The UK ambassador in Kabul, Mark Sedwill, has defended the use of the international force to provide security for the elections.

He was responding to unconfirmed reports that in one area secured during Operation Panther's Claw in Helmand Province, just 150 voted.

Ten British soldiers died during the mission to drive the Taliban out of Babaji district and the surrounding area.

Just hours after the first results on Tuesday, a huge bombing in the southern city of Kandahar left more than 40 people dead.

It came on the same day four US soldiers were killed, making 2009 the deadliest year for foreign troops in Afghanistan since the US-led overthrow of the Taliban in 2001.

On Wednesday, a bomb attack in Kunduz in the north-east killed the head of the province's justice department, Qari Jahangir, police said.

The Taliban said they killed Mr Jahangir but have denied carrying out the Kandahar attack.

Correspondents say the militants often deny responsibility for attacks in which civilians are killed.


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